Role of Apology in Anti-Corruption Efforts

Thomas Fox, creator of the widely followed FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog, was inspired by #ApologyWatch and wrote a thoughtful blogpost that asks several probing questions about what it means to truly apologize in the wake of an FCPA violation.

I often use what I characterize as McNulty’s Maxims on questions that would be asked by a regulator in any Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement action: (1) What did you do to prevent it?; (2) What did you do to detect it?; and (3) What did you do when you found out about it? I find that Dov Seidman’s prescriptions for an authentic apology resonate with McNulty Maxim Number 3, which in many ways is the most important maxim. Did your company move forward to remediate the issue that caused the FCPA violation? What steps did you take? Did you terminate those responsible? Were there any internal penalties against senior management or the Board that oversaw the conduct in question? Was your company accountable?

Fox is on-point when he notes that if “your actions belie your words” when you apologize for violations of FCPA or other similar anti-corruption regimes, your apology has no meaning.  To go on an authentic “apology journey,” however, as Wal-Mart and Siemens have recently been forced to do due to corruption scandals, means more then firing the culpable and installing more rules and penalties. Rules and penalties police what people can or cannot do. The real challenge is instilling an environment where people do what they should do, even if they can get away with it. This is the true task of building “corporate character” (to learn more, read this strategy+business interview of Dov Seidman).

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