SOURCE: Eversheds

October 23, 2007 09:30 ET

Leading US Multinationals Move Past Sarbanes Oxley to Prioritize Three Compliance Challenges: Corruption, Governance and Wrongdoing by Agents and Contractors

Eversheds LLP Global Compliance Survey Reveals Worries Over Boardroom Understanding and Attention to Global Compliance; Aggressive Enforcement of US Regulations Does Little to Create a Culture of Compliance

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - October 23, 2007) - The heads of legal and compliance departments at large global companies face an increasingly far flung business sphere in which to educate, monitor and prevent FCPA infringement, governance lapses and wrongdoing by their partners, agents and contractors worldwide. The majority of those surveyed at a Global Compliance Conference hosted last week in New York by international law firm Eversheds LLP said they struggle for top management attention or resources to implement effective regulatory compliance globally. Interestingly, SOX compliance appears to no longer be a priority, with only 3% indicating that it was among their top two concerns. One out of five respondents rated their global compliance efforts "fair to poor" and more than half (56%) say that despite progress in the past 18 months, their global compliance efforts need improving.

The Eversheds LLP Global Compliance Survey also revealed that the impact of US laws and regulations in a post-Enron era is questioned by US business. More than one third (35%) of respondents said the enforcement of US laws and regulations for companies acting internationally over the last two to three years was too aggressive, while 37% conceded it was aggressive but necessary; only 15% claimed it was appropriate. Calling into question the effectiveness of these measures, 69% of those surveyed said the increased regulation and enforcement by US agencies since the collapse of Enron has motivated only "some or little reduction in wrongdoing."

"America's largest global companies have a monumental challenge to drive compliance across complex businesses in dozens of jurisdictions worldwide," said Paul Smith, partner at Eversheds LLP, who represents US multinationals such as DuPont. "To achieve and sustain global compliance they need processes, an infrastructure to monitor and report issues, and the all-important tone at the top."

Additional Key Findings

-- Global Competitiveness: Almost two thirds (60%) of respondents claimed that regulatory policies and enforcement approaches of US authorities makes US companies less competitive in global markets.

-- Crisis Avoidance: Forty-two percent of those surveyed felt the primary reason their executives and directors are concerned about global compliance is to avoid a damaging crisis, while 27% cited concerns of fines and penalties as the biggest reason to comply globally. Notably, 23% said their directors care about global compliance and ethics "because it is the right thing to do."

-- Inadequate Investment: The survey revealed lawyers had a high level of concern regarding the investments their companies had made with regards to compliance, with 48% of respondents stating their company "probably" or "definitely" failed to provide adequate resources to support an effective global compliance program.

-- Compliance Performance: The views of corporate counsel and compliance officers when rating their company's global compliance performance over the past 18 months were positive, with 39% rating themselves as good, via a rating of six out of ten and a further 37% as very good, via a rating of seven or eight out of ten. In looking at the responses, one top counsel with an industrial conglomerate commented: "I think that's a very rosy view."

-- Dynamic Regulatory Environment: The scope of pending changes to the compliance landscape is of clear concern, with 40% of those surveyed stating their number one pressure was keeping up with changing regulations and business complexity. Responsiveness, meeting demand and obtaining adequate management support for their compliance function were also cited as important issues.

-- Third Party Support: Regarding working with third parties globally, survey respondents indicated the greatest risk of non-compliance and/or wrongdoing was seen as coming from agents (47%) and contractors (22%). To combat this, 48% stated their company required any third parties or agents to sign contractual agreements to comply with relevant laws and regulations.

-- Legal Oversight: Reflecting the changing face of compliance as a key issue for US corporations in recent years, 53% of those surveyed stated compliance was part of the legal function for their business.

The research surveyed 67 attendees who were predominantly senior corporate counsel with some compliance responsibilities (40%) or compliance managers (33%). Nearly half (46%) of respondents work with institutions whose revenue exceeds $10 billion annually.

This survey follows a recent international conference hosted by Eversheds LLP, a UK headquartered law firm, with 34 offices across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, where top global corporate counsel, compliance officers and regulators met to exchange best practices and methods to improve compliance in global business. The conference was held in collaboration with the Association of Corporate Counsel of New York at the University Club in New York City. As part of the day, those attending were surveyed on their views and their corporations' efforts to meet the challenges of global compliance.

Among the speakers at the event were Scott Gilbert, SVP and Chief Compliance Officer, Marsh & McLennan; John Gatlin, SVP and General Counsel, Nestle USA; Federal Trade Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour; European Parliament member Jonathan Evans; David Gray, Chief Executive of Eversheds; Ed Papantonio, Senior VP of Lehman Brothers; Tom Sager, Chief Litigation Counsel at DuPont; Thomas Kim, SVP and Global Head of Compliance Assurance at Reuters and others.

About Eversheds

Eversheds LLP and its worldwide associate offices have over 2,000 legal and business advisers providing services to the private and public sector business and finance community. Access to all these services is provided through our network of international offices.

The firm is involved daily in projects where advice is required across multiple jurisdictions. With 34 offices, Eversheds offer a full and comprehensive coverage in Europe, Middle East and Asia jurisdictions through our own offices and a network of preferred suppliers. The firm's international vision is about delivering a high standard of integrated service across all jurisdictions. Eversheds combines local market knowledge and access with the specialisms, resources and international capability of one of the world's largest law firms.

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