Like Walmart, SNC Lavalin, a Canadian construction company, is in the midst of a bribery and corruption scandal. But unlike Walmart, SNC Lavalin has adopted an innovative way to help get to the bottom of the problem. Earlier this week it announced:
A company-wide Amnesty Program to encourage current employees to report potential corruption and anti-competition matters in which they may have direct or indirect knowledge. The Amnesty Program is intended to assist SNC-Lavalin in its efforts to fully gather and assess the facts associated with corporate ethics matters in order to resolve them…. The Company guarantees that it will not make claims for damages or unilaterally terminate employees who voluntarily, truthfully and fully report violations of its Code of Ethics and Business Conduct during this period.
But before you jump the gun and assume that an amnesty program would just let the higher-ups (like the Walmart brass implicated in The New York Times) off the hook, guess again. SNC-Lavalin explicitly excludes them from the amnesty offer:
The offer does not extend to executives in the Company’s Office of the President or Management Committee groups, or anyone who directly profited from an ethical violation.
This isn’t the first time a company facing a corruption scandal has offered amnesty. In 2007 Siemens, the payer of the largest FCPA settlement in history, offered amnesty to its employees, and more than 100 came forward. According to the DOJ, those seeking amnesty “include[ed] numerous employees who previously provided incomplete or less than truthful information and employees who had not come forward previously.” And in its settlement with Siemens, the DOJ cited the amnesty program as evidence of the “Siemens’ exceptional cooperation.”
If Walmart were serious about resolving FCPA concerns and not just evading as much legal liability as possible, an amnesty program might be the answer. A program like this might help bring the investigation to a quicker resolution, reduce the expense of the investigation (currently at $230 million and counting), and possibly lead to a smaller settlement with the DOJ and SEC. Do you think Walmart should implement an amnesty policy? Is the company too afraid of what might come to light?