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Sailing, cycling, and compliance

Tom Fox | June 19, 2017

The quadrennial America’s Cup is here, and the finals are a rematch of the 2013 finals between Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand. This iteration of America’s Cup does not feature sailing yachts but high-speed catamarans which skim over the water at speeds of up to 47.57 knots, which translates to 88 kmh or 55 mph. If you watch these races, it appears as if the boats are literally flying over the water. Yet as with traditional yachts, the key to winning is better sailing through a complex system of hydraulics to adjust both the sails and underwater blades. More hydraulic power means sharper turns, sail trims, and other crisper adjustments.

Emirates Team New Zealand has an interesting innovation for its boat this year. In a move straight out of back to the future, the boat’s designers traded arm-crank hydraulics for pedal power as there are a series of stationary bikes, four on each side of the boat to move the hydraulics. The reason is simple: leg power is always stronger than arm power. It seems like an amazingly simple insight yet the Kiwis were the only boat to make this change. It had at least one other effect: the former behemoths who manned those hand cranks have been replaced by more sprightly cycling/sailing specialists so the weight of the boat is even more reduced.

For The Man From FCPA, this strategic Kiwi insight translates into returning to the basics in your anti-corruption compliance program from time-to-time. Most compliance practitioners consider gifts, travel, and entertainment to be low risk and once training and a tracking system is put in place, do not return to review it. However by doing so, compliance programs are not only missing key insights which are available from such recordation systems, but also may be overlooking indicia of bribery and corruption. The past couple of years has continued to see FCPA enforcement actions where gifts, travel, and entertainment were at the core of the illegal conduct.

So sometimes, it is good to go back to the future and review the past to improve your future.