As every compliance practitioner is well aware, third parties still present the highest risk under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The Department of Justice Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs devotes an entire prong to third party management. It begins with the following:
Risk-Based and Integrated Processes – How has the company’s third-party management process corresponded to the nature and level of the enterprise risk identified by the company? How has this process been integrated into the relevant procurement and vendor management processes?
Appropriate Controls – What was the business rationale for the use of the third parties in question? What mechanisms have existed to ensure that the contract terms specifically described the services to be performed, that the payment terms are appropriate, that the described contractual work is performed, and that compensation is commensurate with the services rendered?
This first set of queries clearly specifies the DOJ expects an integrated approach that is operationalized throughout the company. This means your compliance process must have a process for the full life cycle of third party risk management. There are five steps in the life cycle of third party risk management, which will fulfill the DOJ requirements laid out in the 10 Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program and the Evaluation.
Step 1 - Business Justification
The first step breaks down into two parts:
The purpose of the Business Justification is to document the satisfactoriness of the business case to retain a third party. The Business Justification should be included in the compliance review file assembled on every third party at the time of initial certification and again if the third-party relationship is renewed. It is mandatory this document be filled out and completed by the Business Sponsor, who will be the primary contract with the third-party for the life of the business relationship.
Step 2 - Questionnaire
The term ‘questionnaire’ is mentioned several times in the 2012 FCPA Guidance. It is generally recognized as one of the tools that a company should complete in its investigation to better understand with whom it is doing business. I believe that this requirement is not only a key step but also a mandatory step for any third party that desires to do work with your company. I tell clients that if a third party does not want to fill out the questionnaire or will not fill it out completely that you should not walk but run away from doing business with such a party.
One thing that you should keep in mind is that you will likely have pushback from your business team in making many of the inquiries listed above. However, my experience is that most proposed agents that have done business with US or UK companies have already gone through this process. Indeed, they understand that by providing this information on a timely basis, they can set themselves apart as more attractive to US businesses.
Step 3 - Due Diligence
Most compliance practitioners understand the need for a robust due diligence program to investigation third parties, but have struggled with how to create an inventory to define the basis of risk of each foreign business partner and thereby perform the requisite due diligence. Getting your arms around due diligence can sometimes seem bewildering for the compliance practitioner.
The purpose is to encourage businesses to put in place due diligence procedures that adequately inform the application of proportionate measures designed to prevent persons associated with a company from engaging in bribery and corruption on their behalf. Due diligence acts as both as a procedure for anti-bribery risk assessment and as a risk mitigation technique. Further both operate as compliance internal controls.
After you have completed Steps 1-3; then evaluated and documented your evaluation, you are ready to move onto to Step 4 - the contract. In the area of compliance terms and conditions, the FCPA Guidance intones “Additional considerations include payment terms and how those payment terms compare to typical terms in that industry and country, as well as the timing of the third party’s introduction to the business.” This means that you need to understand what the rate of commission is and whether it is reasonable for the services delivered. If the rate is too high, this could be indicia of corruption as high commission rates can create a pool of money to be used to pay bribes. If your company uses a distributor model in its sales side, then it needs to review the discount rates it provides to its distributors to ascertain that the discount rate it warranted.
Step 4 - The Contract
You must evaluate the information and show that you have used it in your process. If it is incomplete, it must be completed. If there are Red Flags, which have appeared, these red flags must be cleared or you must demonstrate how you will manage the risks identified. In others words you must Document, Document and Document that you have read, synthesized and evaluated the information garnered in Steps 1-3. As the DOJ and SEC continually remind us, a compliance program must be a living, evolving system and not simply a ‘Check-the-Box’ exercise.
Step 5 - Management of the Relationship
The Evaluation specified the importance of this final step when it stated: Management of Relationships – How has the company considered and analyzed the third party’s incentive model against compliance risks? How has the company monitored the third parties in question? How has the company trained the relationship managers about what the compliance risks are and how to manage them? How has the company incentivized compliance and ethical behavior by third parties?
I often say that after you complete Steps 1-4 in the life cycle management of a third party, the real work begins and that work is found in Step 5– the Management of the Relationship. While the work done in Steps 1-4 are absolutely critical, if you do not manage the relationship it can all go downhill very quickly and you might find yourself with a potential FCPA or UK Bribery Act violation. There are several different ways that you should manage your post-contract relationship. The Evaluation clearly is focused on several key components that you need to evaluate and then re-evaluate during the pendency of the relationship. Incentivizing through compensation issues, training and ongoing monitoring through oversight and auditing are all key tools that the DOJ expects you to use going forward after the contract is signed. The bottom line is that all the work you have done in Steps 1-4 will not be for naught and that you will have a compliant anti-corruption relationship with your third party going forward.
I continually give my mantra of compliance, which is Document, Document, and Document. Each of the steps you take in the management of your third parties must be documented. Not only must they be documented but they must be stored and managed in a manner that you can retrieve them with relative ease. The management of third parties is absolutely critical in any best practices compliance program. As you sit at your desk pondering whether this assignment given to you by the CCO is a career-ending dead-end; you should take heart because there is clear and substantive guidance out there which you can draw upon.
Three Key Takeaways
As the leading provider of ethics and compliance cloud software, Convercent connects ethics to business performance by weaving ethics and values into everyday operations in more than 600 of the world’s largest companies. Its Ethics Cloud Platform, provides a suite of applications: Convercent Insights, Convercent Helpline, Convercent Campaigns, Convercent Disclosures and Convercent Third Party. For more information go to Convercent.com.