Dr. Jan Sprafke and Jad Mhanna on Compliance in non-Western Cultures [Podcast]

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Post By: Adam Turteltaub

At the 2022 SCCE European Compliance & Ethics Institute Dr. Jan Sprafke, Head of Compliance, Europe and Latin America and Jad Mhanna, Regional Compliance Officer at Ericsson will be leading a session entitled Cultural Divide and Compliance. The session, and this podcast, will examine some of the challenges in implementing compliance programs in non-Western countries.

There are three common issues that they find when implementing a program, especially in the anti-corruption area. First is the belief that it is a foreign law being imposed upon the local community. Second, there are different perceptions of what constitutes a bribe. Third, many believe that this is another Western way to mingle in local affairs. Some may also see anti-corruption laws as weaponized: designed to penalize economic competitiveness.

When considering how to overcome these barriers they caution to remember that not all of the workforce shares the same perspective when it comes to compliance. Some don’t really care and will do what they are asked to. Others will be smiling and saying “yes” but thinking about how to get around the rules to do what they want.

The third is a small minority who will speak up and share their concerns. This group needs to be handled carefully. It is easy to see them as opposition when, in fact, they are not.

So what should a compliance team do when faced with these challenges? Jan and Jad recommend avoiding the temptation to force compliance and instead take the time to understand the culture. In some places simply sharing the rules will be enough. In others it may mean taking the time to explain your goals and build a deeper understanding of why this initiative is important.

Other advice they provide:

  • Don’t make this a headquarters initiative, partner locally
  • Leave room for discretion and flexibility
  • Understand what the local definition of corruption is and what is considered a bribe
  • Run frequent risk assessments and compliance audits
  • Help the local business team understand their risk exposure

Finally, take the time to put yourself in the shoes of others. It will help you better understand your colleagues’ thinking and help make compliance more of a two-way street.