Do Small Businesses Have to Worry About Bribery?

Do small- and medium-sized businesses have to stay vigilant about bribery from within their ranks? Absolutely, writes Jonathan Kok at Warner Norcross & Judd:

“The federal government has enacted laws that make it a crime for businesses operating in the United States to bribe foreign officials in an attempt to obtain favors or favorable treatment. Many states followed suit by enacting laws that make it a crime for an employee to accept or offer benefits in order to obtain or retain business. Whether you are a large multi-national corporation or a small business owner that sells in multiple states, commercial bribery is a potential issue.”

And where there is bribery, as more and more global corporations are learning (just ask Wal-Mart, Pfizer, and Aon), there are whistleblowers who discover and report the wrongdoing.

How can companies get ahead of the curve? Three ways:

1. Set up an internal hotline / reporting mechanism:

Although FCPA attorney Tom Fox’s remarks are intended for a corporate crowd facing SEC and DOJ sanctions, one message is clear for companies of all sizes: setting up an internal reporting mechanism allows a company to act on whistleblower information before the authorities do. (Thomas Fox)

2. Get employee buy-in early:

“Schedule as many meetings with business groups, listen with an empathetic ear to the business staff, try and address their concerns, make their jobs easier and then make sure you come through and help the business people to perform their jobs. Compliance professionals need to be problem-solvers not Dr. Nos – make sure you help the business side to achieve. Show them that compliance relieves them of worries and recognize that without the business people no one would be operating at the company.” (Michael Volkov)

3. Develop and implement an appropriate response to whistleblower complaints:

“Much has been written on substantive complaint procedures; i.e., whom to interview, what questions to ask, how to ask them, etc. The tougher issue, and the genesis of much litigation, lies in how an employer treats a whistleblower after a complaint or report of inappropriate conduct has been initiated.” (Dinsmore & Shohl)

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