Category: Compliance

Ethics and Compliance: Active Board Involvement Is a Must

Establishing and supporting a corporate compliance program is widely recognized as one of the fundamental responsibilities of a corporate board of directors. But merely seeing that there is a compliance program in place is by no means an adequate effort. The Board must also actively oversee that function.

Active oversight is essential if a company’s business plan includes strategies, practices, or other elements that could be considered high-risk. Such situations call for even more involvement and active engagement by the Board.

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FCPA – The Role of The Board and More!

One of the FCPA themes for 2020 has been hiding in plain sight all along. The FCPA requirement that “reporting companies to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to provide reasonable assurances that, among other things, transactions are executed following management’s general or specific authorizations, and access to assets is permitted only in accordance with management’s general or specific authorization.” But what if the violation of this requirement occurs in a non-foreign (IE., the U.S.) and in a non-bribery situation.

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First Civil Settlement for Fraud on Cares Act Paycheck Protection Program

On January 12, 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California announced the first civil settlement with a borrower for allegedly committing fraud in obtaining a Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan, in violation of the False Claims Act (“FCA”) and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (“FIRREA”).

The FCA allows the government to recover damages and penalties for presenting false claims for payment to the United States. FIRREA allows the government to impose civil penalties for violations of enumerated federal criminal statutes, including those that affect federally-insured financial

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Transparency! The New Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA)

On December 11, 2020, the Senate passed the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (“AMLA” or the “Act”) – DIVISION F of the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2021 (the “NDAA”). The House of Representatives had previously passed the measure on December 8, 2020.

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Board of Directors Oversight

Under the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines, in order to receive credit for having an effective compliance program, and thereby reduce the fines imposed on the organization, a Board of Directors must be “knowledgeable about the content and operation of the compliance and ethics program,” and must “exercise reasonable oversight with respect to the implementation and effectiveness of the compliance and ethics program.”

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Herbalife – “Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes” – Translated: Who Will Guard the Guards Themselves, or Who will Watch the Watchmen?

Herbalife’s business relationship in China was committed to illegal activity, which it knew or should have known violated the FCPA. Specifically,  beginning in late 2006, Herbalife China provided improper benefits and payments to government officials to obtain direct selling licenses for two cities.
Herbalife paid out millions of dollars in bribes. Fraudulent expense reimbursements were used to fund the bribes, which is is a common tactic for these types of bribes.

Specifically, the SEC found that Herbalife China paid bribes through extravagant meals, gifts, and other benefits given to Chinese officials to obtain sales licenses and remove negative media coverage in China. Managers at the subsidiary asked employees to falsify expense report documents, for example, adding names to meal receipts to get below the company’s per head spending limit. It also found that the payments and benefits were inaccurately recorded and that Herbalife failed to maintain a sound system of internal controls.

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SEC and its New Silent Whistleblower: Risk Based Data Analytics

The SEC just announced its first actions arising from investigations generated by the Enforcement Division’s EPS (Earnings Per Share) Initiative, which utilizes risk-based data analytics to uncover potential accounting and disclosure violations caused by, among other things, earnings management practices.

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Are you ready? New EU Whistleblower Protection Law!

Soon all public and private organizations in the EU with more than fifty (50) employees will soon be required to comply with a new EU Whistleblower Protection law. The new law highlights the importance of responsive, transparent, and timely whistleblowing case management. So just implementing a hotline is not enough. Organizations must consider confidentiality, acknowledgment of the tip or compliant, response times, the competence of persons receiving the reports, communication with the whistleblower, and feedback on how the case is being processed. The new law also includes the right to report concerns externally while remaining legally protected. That’s a risk organizations must avoid. With the December 2021 deadline fast approaching, there is no better time for management and boards to act. 

Read more!

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Enterprise Resiliency Model Released

In July 2020, The Institute of Internal Auditors (“IIA”) updated its Three Lines of Defense Model (“Model”) to emphasize more active forms of risk management and governance that appear to go beyond merely defensive maneuvers made by the internal audit function.  

Some believed the old model sent a message that we should fear risk. I never saw it that way. I understood the subliminal message was the model was about achieving objectives, which requires both the creation and the protection of value. The new model does a much better job of confirming that risk management contributes “to achieving objectives and creating value, as well as to matters of “defense” and protecting value.”

Learn why the Enterprise Risk Resilient Model might be a better choice.

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Webinar – July 28, 2020 – Best Practices for Conducting Remote Internal Investigations

In this pandemic era, global companies have been challenged to maintain a reliable and effective internal investigation program. Companies have relied on remote investigation strategies to collect and review documents and conduct interviews. In conducting remote investigations, companies have to ensure that they follow investigation requirements, maintain the confidentiality of the process, and comply with applicable data privacy rules and security requirements.

In this webinar, Jessica Sanderson, Partner at The Volkov Law Group, and Jonathan T. Marks, Partner| Leader of the Global Forensic Investigation, COmpliance & Integrity Practice at Baker Tilly, will discuss best practices for conducting remote internal investigations. They will outline strategies for collecting and reviewing documents, analyzing financial data, and conducting interviews using remote technologies.

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The Continued Evolution of Best Practices for Compliance Programs

In 2019 and 2020, the federal government released significant information which directly impacted compliance professionals. We cover all three releases in this eBook, the 2020 Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs – Guidance Document, the 2019 Framework for OFAC Compliance Commitments, and the 2019 Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs in Criminal Antitrust Investigations.

These three documents provided not only the government’s refreshed thinking on what constitutes a best practices compliance program. I have combined all three onto a best practices document.

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SEC & DOJ Release Second Edition of the Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

The SEC and DOJ Resource Guide is intended to provide information for businesses and individuals regarding the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The guide has been prepared by the staff of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Enforcement Division of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The key changes to the Second Edition reflect developments and issues that are well-known to experienced practitioners. Nevertheless, the updated Guide emphasizes the importance of effective (and “adequately resourced”) compliance programs, risk-based diligence efforts, and voluntary self-disclosures.   

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COVID-19 – Fraud On The Rise is No Surprise!

Last week, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (” ACFE”) published the results of a survey taken by more than 1,800 anti-fraud professionals in late April and early May 2020, while we were deep into the Covid-19 crisis.  The findings, for the most part, are not surprising, but does reveal some disappointing information.  While I have not seen a raw copy of the survey, I was surprised the ACFE didn’t ask if the company’s fraud risk assessment was reviewed and modified accordingly.

In addition, the survey highlights trends in the overall level of fraud. Survey respondents provided information about their current observations and expected changes regarding ten (10) specific types of fraud.

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DOJ Revises its Guidance on the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs

Without any fanfare, the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division has once again revised its Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (“ECCP”).  The ECCP  remains  organized around three overarching questions that prosecutors ask when evaluating compliance programs, with some revisions, which are in bold text below:

Is the corporation’s compliance program well designed?
Is the program being applied earnestly and in good faith? In other words, is the program being implemented adequately resourced and empowered to function effectively?
Does the corporation’s compliance program work in practice?

While most of the document is identical to the 2019 Guidance, there are subtle and noticeable revisions.  The revisions appear to be designed to help provide additional clarity when answering the above three questions. 

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Internal Investigations and Keywords

Investigative search terms are specific to each situation and are a primary tool used by the investigation team to identify possible relevant information in a data set. However, overly broad or poorly chosen terms or keywords can produce excessive and irrelevant results, or worse, miss the  “smoking gun” e-mail or document. Additionally, have you thought about the list of search terms or keywords being privileged or protected opinion work product in the context of an internal investigation?

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Whistleblowers: Tipsters not trusting the system?

Whistleblowers: Tipsters not trusting the system? Here’s how to win them back.

Anonymous hotlines and tip-reporting structures are useless, of course, if informants don’t trust them. Employees won’t blow the whistle if they fear reprisals. So, their concerns often don’t enter case-management systems and frauds continue. Here’s how to earn back their trust, take them seriously and transform raw tips into valuable fraud examinations.

Ovem lupo commitere!

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Whistleblowers: A Fraud Triage System to Manage Burgeoning Caseloads

As the use of whistleblower programs continues to grow, many organizations find themselves struggling to manage burgeoning caseloads. As a result, serious fraud investigations can be delayed (with mounting losses) while less consequential complaints are being investigated. The lack of a timely, systematic and repeatable process for evaluating and prioritizing whistleblower tips that contain allegations of ethical breaches can also expose an organization to increased regulatory risk.

While there is no single, “right” method for following up on whistleblower complaints, the most effective approaches often resemble the medical triage programs that hospitals and first responders use to allocate limited resources during emergencies, or a crisis situation.

Here are some useful guidelines for designing and implementing a fraud triage system.

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The Role of the Board of Directors in Compliance Oversight

Under the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines, in order to receive credit for having an effective compliance program, and thereby reduce the fines imposed on the organization, a Board of Directors must be “knowledgeable about the content and operation of the compliance and ethics program,” and must “exercise reasonable oversight with respect to the implementation and effectiveness of the compliance and ethics program.” In addition, in criminal actions against a business organization, including the FCPA, the DOJ’s Justice Manual instructs prosecutors to ask and answer several questions, including: 1) Do the Directors exercise independent review of the company’s compliance program? and 2) Are Directors provided timely and accurate information sufficient to enable the exercise of independent judgment?

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The Compliance Shift – Now for Tomorrow!

Where is compliance headed in the 2020’s? Certainly, technological solutions will be a big part of the future of compliance programs and controls. Compliance is rapidly emerging and being viewed as a critical business process. Moving away from the days in which it was driven by legalese and where lawyers are responsible for crafting compliance policies and procedures.  These advances provide opportunity for innovation, and enable compliance to recede from being viewed as a cost center led by the “head of business denial”, to being viewed as value added function to the business. Simply put, a more effective compliance program contributes to more efficient business processes, which leads to greater profitability.

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Author: Jonathan T. Marks, CPA, CFF, CFE


Partner, Firm Practice Leader - Global Fraud & Forensic Investigations, Compliance, & Integrity Services

Communication and work product may be privileged and confidential.

Attribution

The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at jtmarkscpa@gmail.com

Jonathan T. Marks, his firm, their affiliates, and all related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication.

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