Take Charge Before The Whistle Blows

Yesterday the IRS announced that ex-UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld would be receiving a reward of $104 million for blowing the whistle on UBS for assisting tax invasion of 4,500 American clients in Switzerland. In case you didn’t get that number: 104,000,000 US Dollars… Woah! That is an impressive number of 0’s. The impact of this ‘bounty’ is enormous. It gives incentive and impetus to turn any employee, customer, supplier, or activist into a possible whistleblower.

However, it is not only the banking industry that is under tremendous compliance pressure. The pharmaceutical industry has also seen its share of malpractices and compliance cases leading to astronomical fines. Pharma companies across the world are talking about how to ‘shore up’ their policies, control systems and incentive schemes. They are looking to enhance awareness, capability and change the mindset of their employees, customers and suppliers alike.

Industries have started to wake up over the past few years and have focused and invested heavily in trying to make businesses compliant with US and European legislation (specifically the Anti Bribery Act in the UK). This is certainly a huge task in Asia where the regulatory environment, business, and cultural context are not always supportive of such an approach. Many people I have spoken to long to go back to when these rules were not applicable and when you had some operational freedom to ‘grease the wheels’, grow your market and deliver results. It certainly requires more effort, perseverance and consistency to get things done in a compliant manner, but one thing is true and rightfully so; compliance is here to stay.

So my advice: Adapt. Be known as the compliance king in your industry. Become the expert (know every law, understand your processes and systems, be aware of industry best practices), show that you can implement these rules in complex situations and keep a record of delivering results in a compliant manner. Make it your personal competitive edge and you will reap the career rewards for years to come. Take charge before someone in your organization decides to blow the whistle on you!

– Paul Keijzer

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