Why do ‘normal’ employees violate the FCPA?
Friday, August 10, 2018 at 7:28AM
Richard L. Cassin in U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

People who've violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act fall into two categories: those who had criminal intent from the start, and those who stumbled into the offense.

It's the second group -- the regular folks who've done a bad thing -- who are so tragic. They're just like the rest of us -- except they've ruined their careers and professional reputations, and sometimes lost their freedom and more.

It's also the second group -- the "ordinary, well-meaning people" -- who are the focus of an article Margaret Steen wrote ten years ago. She looks at how easy it is for well-intentioned corporate employees to break the law. She also recommends ways to reduce corrupt behavior -- without crippling the organization with too much internal regulation.

Promote a culture of compliance, encourage dissent, hire an ethics officer, rethink goals and rewards, and marginalize misconduct. Sound familiar? The article doesn't say so, but those recommendations echo elements of an "effective compliance program" described in Chapter 8 (pdf) of the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

So why do "normal" corporate employees break the law?

Here what Margaret Steen said:

The lesson? It's easy (and wrong) to think compliance programs should be aimed only at stopping hard-core criminal activity. The more subtle internal threat comes from regular employees -- those who wouldn't jaywalk outside the office but who fall into illegal behavior at work, one tiny step at a time.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

Article originally appeared on The FCPA Blog (http://www.fcpablog.com/).
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