Anti-Bribery Training Is Key

How does a new focus from legislators affect your anti-bribery training?

By Matt Plass, Interactive Services’ Chief Learning Officer

In 2007, there were 38 prosecutions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Know how many prosecutions we saw in 2010? Almost double the 2007 figures with 74 prosecutions in 2010—not including 150 investigations that are still open.

These stats indicate that Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer wasn’t joking in November 2010 when he said, “The Department’s enforcement of the FCPA is aggressive, and it’s on the rise”.

One of our specialties at Interactive Services is the creation of online anti-bribery training courses. They are an annual requirement for most large organizations and the core message rarely changes: Be aware, know your policy, watch for red flags, and speak up!

So, considering your average employee takes an anti-bribery course once a year, how do we ensure this hot topic receives the same level of attention from your busy employee as it currently receives from legislators?

1. Challenge misconceptions. Bribery is back-handing a brown envelope stuffed with cash, right?And who actually doesthat? Not me! The most common misconception around bribery legislation is, “I’m not a criminal so it doesn’t concern me.” But of course, anti-bribery legislation covers any gift or advantage given—even something as small as a free branded pen can fall foul of legislation and policy. Your online FCPA training, however good, is unlikely to prevent a criminal element from intentionally bribing an official or business contact. Instead, you should be thinking about the unsuspecting individual who doesn’t consider the potential impact, to themselves and to the organization, of giving away those free baseball tickets.

2. Think global. Although the FCPA is U.S. legislation, it applies to allemployees of a U.S. company regardless of their location. You’ll hear people say, “I’m half way around the world in a country where greasing the wheels is standard business practice. FCPA is not aimed at me.” They couldn’t be more wrong.

Bear in mind also that your organization’s anti-bribery policy probably goes furtherthan the legislation in proscribing gifts or advantage. Shout this from the rooftops, “We have a zero-tolerance global approach to bribery: We take no chances, we protect the individual, and the firm.” AstraZeneca did this well with the announcement that it is scrapping payments for doctors to attend international medical congresses.

3. Carrot? Stick? Something else? Anti-bribery messages may be similar year-in/year-out but your training needn’t be. Think about your audience and the misconceptions they may have. Consider any recent incidents of good or bad practices in your organization or in the media at large. Then ask what approach you should take in the training. Scare the learner with potential consequence of non-compliance. Celebrate good practice with some “near-miss” examples. Use video to show how it should or shouldn’t be done. Drop the learner into a tricky situation and have them negotiate their way out, keeping to the right side of anti-bribery legislation.

Remember, prosecutions are on the rise, and this is not box-ticking compliance. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to FCPA training. The more engaging and interesting the training, the more people will reflect upon, and realign, their own behavior.

4. Capitalize on the mistakes of others. Granted, this one is a little ghoulish. But when creating anti-bribery training, you should make use of the many rich examples from real life. If a firm makes bad headlines with a $78 million fine from a bribery case, that’s interesting to the learner. If an individual within that firm lost their job, their reputation, their liberty… that’s fascinating stuff—morbidly fascinating perhaps, but it guarantees learner engagement. So make good use of what’s already out there and don’t be afraid to use examples from within your own firm. The closer a training course is to myreality, the more I’ll engage.

Lastly, don’t assume that because this is legislation and compliance your training should be all doom and gloom, jail and fines. There are opportunities here to highlight exemplar performers and focus on the “right” way to do things. Your learners should leave the training with one message clear above all others: “I am a part of ensuring that we maintain our zero- tolerance approach to bribery: I take no chances; I protect myself and the firm.”

Matt Plass has been Interactive Services’ Chief Learning Officer for more than four years and is based in the UK. Plass has been in the training and education industry for 10 years, and has a background in Adult Learning and Instructional Design. He leads and oversees all instructional design and concept development at Interactive Services. For more information, visit

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training Top 100 and Emerging Training Leaders.