Richard Bistrong: Embrace the best compliance resource of all
Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at 6:28AM
Richard Bistrong in Artificial Intelligence, Due Diligence

Two great recent posts on the FCPA Blog talked about the heavy demands on compliance professionals generated by the global regulatory patchwork.

Lindsay Columbo discussed the challenges of due diligence amid regulatory differences, among other variables, but said consistent standards and regulations “can be understood and addressed regardless of jurisdiction or any other factor.”

Martin Kenney pointed out in response that a one-size solution “may be impossible to achieve.” He's also concerned that in looking for harmonization and automation, “we may be minimiz(ing) the human element in the equation.”

I agree with Martin’s premise that through too much standardization, we might lose the best compliance resource we have: our gut. He's right to warn that a myopic focus on “running searches and ticking the boxes” can divert our attention from the atmospherics of transactions, where a hunch might lead to hitting the pause button, even if we're not sure exactly why.

As a sales executive, I once handled a massive order for grenades for a small, peaceful Caribbean island. Somehow, the order didn't raise anyone’s suspicions. But as Martin says, there is no substitute for experience. Those handling and supporting that grenade order might have included people in support functions -- sales order processing, finance, and shipping/receiving, along with their supervisors. Were they thinking of themselves as small cogs in a big machine, or as integrity ambassadors? Did they encounter what Martin described as the conflict “between profitability and compliance” for that grenade order?

If the focus is on standards, harmonization, certifications, and a dashboard on our desktop, is there any room for the hunches that can keep everyone safe?

When I worked as a sales executive and was violating the FCPA, I left "crumbs of clues" along my ten-year path. Most of those clues wouldn’t have been found in a data dive or dashboard.

For example, I bribed a Dutch police official to win a pepper spray contract. Would the Dutch police have triggered any red-flags in an automated or standardized process? How about a New York-based UN intermediary who had a success fee of less than five percent? And yet, my colleagues may have had a hunch about my amazing sales successes.

When we focus resources on one-size solutions and neat data dashboards, does that leave room for the human element or are we blinding ourselves to risks that fall outside our laptops?


Richard Bistrong, pictured above, is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog and CEO of Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLCIn 2010 he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to violate the FCPA and served fourteen and a half months at a U.S. federal prison camp. He was named to Compliance Week's list of Top Minds in 2017 and was one of Ethisphere's 100 Most Influential in Business Ethics in 2015. He was named by Thomson Reuters in 2018 as a Top 50 Social Influencer in Risk, Compliance and RegTech.

His popular real-life compliance training video, Behind the Bribe, produced in cooperation with Mastercard, was released in 2017. To request a demo of the full eleven-minute video or a licensing fee schedule, please click here.

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