FCPA: McNulty’s Maxims, the Deepwater Horizon and FCPA Internal Controls

I often write about what I call Paul McNulty’s three maxims of a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance program:

1) What did you do to prevent it?

2) What did you do to detect it?

3) What did you do to remedy it?

I had generally thought that the internal controls component of a minimum best practices FCPA compliance program applied to maxim number 2, detection. However, in a recent guest post regarding internal controls entitled “Controls to Prevent Violations of Anti-Bribery Laws, my colleague Henry Mixon explained that “A specific focus is needed to ensure there are control procedures in place to ensure compliance with” maxim number 1, prevention.

This concept was driven home in a December 15, 2011 article in the Houston Chronicle by reporter Jennifer Dlouhy, entitled “Blowout preventers fall short, report says”. This article discusses a 136 page report by the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council (“the Report”) on the Deepwater Horizon disaster. One of the findings of the report was that the industry’s trust in blowout preventers, as they are currently designed and utilized, is misplaced. The Report noted that there were several studies which had questioned the reliability of blowout preventers to do what it was designed to and provided several technical reasons for this finding.

For those of you not in the oil and gas industry a blowout preventer is a piece of equipment which is designed to be the last line of defense if the well blows by cutting through the pipe and blocking the oil or gas from escaping upwards and being ignited by the drilling rig. Generally, it has to be activated by someone or some automatic control system to take its preventative action. In other words, it is not viewed as a detection device but as a prevention device.

This article specifies that the design of blow out preventers is as the name implies to prevent an accident ...

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