Anti-Bribery Compliance for Private Fund Managers

Managing the risks inherent in dealing with foreign officials should be a top priority for managers of hedge funds and private equity funds.  This is especially true in the current climate of expansive government interpretations of anti-bribery laws, new incentives for whistleblowers and the recent government scrutiny of the inner workings of fund managers.  It has become standard fare for fund managers to have regular interactions with foreign officials or their representatives in the ordinary course of raising capital and making investments.  There is nothing inherently wrong with such interactions.  Still, those dealings need to be informed by a heightened sensitivity to the possible appearance that something of value was given to a foreign official in connection with a particular investment or transaction.  The risk is that, regardless of the intent of the fund manager, certain conduct may be viewed in hindsight as an effort to improperly influence the actions of a foreign official.  As a result, a fund manager needs to focus on more than just the substance of the transaction and needs to consider both how the transaction might be perceived and the record that is being created.  As cross-border investments continue apace, fund managers can protect themselves by having adequate policies and procedures in place to identify potential bribery risks and to prevent violations from occurring.  Aggressive enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by U.S. authorities and the comprehensive overhaul of anti-corruption laws in the U.K., culminating in the new Bribery Act 2010 (Bribery Act), highlight the importance of implementing effective anti-corruption compliance policies and procedures.  In these circumstances, fund managers must do more than assure themselves that they are not acting with a corrupt intent; they also need to be alert to the risk of misunderstandings and to be diligent in creating a record of compliance.  In a guest article, Paul A. Leder and Sarah P. Swanz, partner and counsel, respectively, in the Washington D.C. office of Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP, outline steps to take to identify and manage the compliance risks faced by fund managers both directly (through their own dealings with foreign officials) and indirectly (through investments in operating companies that operate overseas).  Specifically, Leder and Swanz identify conduct at the fund manager level that can put the manager at risk; discuss the importance of strong internal controls and compliance programs to mitigate corruption risks; and highlight categories of conduct at the portfolio company level that can put the manager at risk.  The authors then make specific suggestions for identifying potential bribery risks and managing such risks.  They conclude with a case study of a criminal prosecution that demonstrates the potential exposure for managers when making foreign investments.

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