Educate, Motivate, Comply

compliance

 

“Every company is just one bad decision or one ‘bad employee’ away from scandal, one scandal away from a salacious headline, and one headline away from a flood of lawsuits.”

William Lytton

As general counsel of fire safety and security specialists Tyco International, William Lytton was well aware of the threat posed to corporate solvency and indeed to human life by flouting of the rules.

With each new territory we seek to trade in, that threat grows more acute. The pitfalls of trading in China were discussed in detail last week at the offices of K&L Gates in Seattle. Speakers at “Anticorruption Compliance in China” outlined the struggles of multinational companies to abide by China’s rules, and in some cases even to understand them. One message repeated was that the Chinese government is on a purge, internally and externally. In 2013 alone, 31,000 of its own officials were convicted on corruption charges. And more and more local investigations of foreign multinationals are targeting what in some cases are long-standing industry practices. What is commonly followed in one country might be considered unethical or even criminal in another. It may not console GlaxoSmithKline to know it, but they have plenty of company on Beijing’s list of offenders.

Closer to home, the UK Bribery Act, passed into law in July 2011, has brought clarity and discipline to the subject and is generally viewed as the most stringent anti-corruption legislation in the world. Information technology law is moving forward under the guidance of the EU, with European data protection reform signalling the first major changes since the birth of the internet. This is a good time to know the rules, and a very bad time to flout them.

Employers across all sectors are alert to the risks. International law firms recruiting lawyers from different jurisdictions and with different professional education experience need to have everyone’s skills and knowledge aligned. Manufacturing companies whose products comfortably meet a standard in one territory but may fall short in another need key staff to be aware of the disparity and of the consequences.

When it comes to maintaining knowledge and skill levels across a diverse workforce, the advantages of e-learning are increasingly clear. The single largest cost organisations face in staff training isn’t the cost of the trainer or the materials. It’s the cost of their own staff attending the course. Take away that cost and inconvenience and the picture changes. Add the benefits that online brings to consistency and scalability and the fact that learners can move at their own pace and it’s not surprising that this has become an education medium of choice.

The best e-learning providers will look not only at delivery but at learning outcomes. Whatever you’re seeking to achieve, they will be your partner in achieving it. Long standing market leaders such as BYG Systems have a track record of breathing life and relevance into any subject matter for any industry, boosting information retention rates and constantly focusing on the client’s end goal. Sometimes that goal will be an induction that makes employees feel part of a team from day one. And sometimes it will be a detailed explanation of policies and procedures that keeps you in profit and out of the courtroom.

Compliance managers and the people who support them are the equivalent of sports referees. When their diligence nips problems in the bud, they can go unthanked and unnoticed. But take that diligence away and the consequences can be measureless. Potential loss of revenue, of credibility, even of personal freedom loom over companies and their key decision makers.

But the story doesn’t have to end that way. There is a better path to follow, and skilled partners available to help us follow it. The message is clear; educate, motivate, comply.

 

David Jones

Common Wealth?

union jack alarm clock

Major international sporting events aren’t just showcases for excellence and endeavour. They are also showcases for the cities and countries that host them. The opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics left the world in awe of China’s capacity for the spectacular. Four years on, London put smiles on a billion faces with a Games that IOC President Jacques Rogge aptly described up as “happy and glorious”.

For the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which open tonight in Glasgow, the stakes are raised. With only eight weeks left until its independence referendum, Scotland has the opportunity to send a message to the world and to its own population.

A successful Games, and particularly a rush of medals, may well deliver an emotional boost to the independence campaign. But what of the colder, harder realities? What are the legal implications of a Scottish breakaway?

With so much at stake for Scotland and for the UK as a whole, it’s perhaps surprising that so many crucial constitutional questions remain unanswered. We’re accustomed to political opponents spinning the facts to suit their respective arguments, but in this case it’s not entirely clear what the facts are.

What would an independent Scotland’s currency be?

How soon, if at all, would it become an EU member state?

Would the new country be eligible for UN membership, and what would the implications be for the UK’s membership of the Security Council?

A yes vote on September 18th would trigger negotiations for a severance settlement with the UK Government with Independence Day to come in 2016.

Anyone drinking a toast on that day may struggle to make lawful payment for their drink unless Scotland’s currency issue is resolved. The SNP has argued that the pound belongs to Scotland as much as it does to England, and many pro-independence campaigners insist that a currency union between an independent Scotland and what remains of the UK can be negotiated. But the leaders and financial spokespeople of all three major Westminster parties have categorically ruled this out. And this week Scottish Affairs Committee Chairman Ian Davidson bluntly dismissed talk of currency union as a “dead parrot”.

Pro-independence campaigners are adamant that Scotland is effectively already part of the EU, meets all the requirements for membership and will be granted member status within their proposed 18 month transition timetable. Senior EU figures have questioned the realism of this timetable and some have questioned whether membership would be granted at all.

Former EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has stated on record that it would be “difficult, if not impossible” for a newly independent Scotland to join the EU. But the pot was given another stir last weekend when an unnamed EU official was quoted as saying that Barroso’s successor Jean-Claude Juncker would not want Scotland to be kept out and that furthermore, Scotland would be regarded as a different case to other new applicants.

While Mr Juncker has no reason to do David Cameron any favours the report remains unsubstantiated, and any decision on Scottish membership would not be his to make. Added to that, the EU Project has at times appeared so close to exhaustion that any new members from 2016 onward may find themselves arriving at a party just as the drinks run out.

Any Scottish ambitions for full membership of the United Nations would be complicated by the UK’s permanent seat on the Security Council. This seat could be jeopardised by the perception of diminished UK status. While this clearly wouldn’t be in the UK’s best interests, it may not be in Scotland’s either. And the irony of a “United Nations” membership debate between nations choosing to disunite would be painful.

Some of the most persuasive voices in this debate have been those that remain relentlessly objective. As the representative body of over 10,500 solicitors the Law Society of Scotland has a vested interest in the country’s probity and prosperity, and Society President Bruce Beveridge proved to be a voice of unbiased reason. While others on both sides blustered, Mr Beveridge asked pertinent questions and offered cool judgement. When his term of office ended in May his successor Alistair Morris carried on in the same vein. By raising key questions on economics and education Mr Morris has brought welcome pragmatism and attention to detail to a debate that has often lacked both. It’s an example that others would do well to follow.

Scotland’s political and economic future is in the balance, and while sporting events in Glasgow may provide us with entertainment and even inspiration, they can’t obscure the fact that too many questions remain unanswered for comfort.

 

David Jones