For a guy who served nearly 30 years as a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and has had hands-on experience building out corporate ethics and compliance programs amid not just one but two government investigations, you could say Jeff Killeen brings a unique perspective to doing compliance smartly and effectively, based on lessons learned along the way.
When Killeen first stepped into his current role as chief compliance officer at Bumble Bee Seafoods in 2016, he was presented with a tall order: Consolidate the company’s scattered compliance program—and, by the way, the company is under a criminal antitrust investigation. In fact, within six weeks of Killeen being on the job, two Bumble Bee senior executives—Walter Scott Cameron and Ken Worsham—pleaded guilty to charges of participating in a scheme to fix seafood prices in the United States.
A guilty plea by Bumble Bee and a $25 million fine followed in May 2017 for the company’s part in the price-fixing scheme. Most recently, U.S. prosecutors in May 2018 filed criminal charges against Bumble Bee CEO Christopher Lischewski, who has since stepped down. “Our leadership team now has re-established its course in a positive direction, and we’re moving forward,” Killeen said at NAVEX Global’s 2018 Ethics and Compliance Virtual Conference.
While this was ongoing, Killeen was tasked with building out an ethics and compliance program—one that resonated across global operations and among its 1,500 employees; one that used resources conservatively and wisely; and most importantly, one that supported the company’s values and objectives. Luckily for Bumble Bee, Killeen brought with him previous experience of building out an ethics and compliance program at 3M following its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation. In the end, the Justice Department closed its investigation into 3M without taking any action, citing, in part, the company’s enhanced anti-corruption compliance program.
“Some attorneys can conduct excellent interviews, but a law degree or HR degree does not necessarily make someone a quality investigator. It behooves you to make sure your company has experienced investigators with a track record.”
Jeff Killeen, CFO, Bumble Bee
“As far as our compliance function, I am it,” Killeen said of his role at Bumble Bee. “We do not have a staff. We are not that big. I handle all aspects of compliance.” This includes everything from training (both live and online) to third-party due diligence to policy writing and attestations. Thus, it’s safe to say that Killeen must do a lot more with less.
That’s why he decided to turn the ethics and compliance function into an automated, well-run machine, so to speak. First, to formalize Bumble Bee’s ethics and compliance program and gain greater visibility into the company’s risk areas, Killeen began by implementing a hotline and incident-management reporting tool.
“I use EthicsPoint,” Killeen said. EthicsPoint documents and tracks incident reports that come from Bumble Bee’s hotline, as well as its extended reporting channels, such as open-door reports. Having in place such a tool serves as the foundation for many other elements of Bumble Bee’s ethics and compliance function, he explained.
From there, he focused on extending Bumble Bee’s compliance efforts out to its entire supply chain by establishing due-diligence protocols. This step was especially important, given that Bumble Bee sources its fish from areas of the world where corruption risk ranks high on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index—including Indonesia, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, and Thailand—highlighting the need for increased vetting and monitoring of third parties in those areas.
Bumble Bee turned to NAVEX Global’s RiskRate to help gain visibility into the company’s risks and apply the appropriate levels of due diligence to each of its third parties. Through the automated software, Killeen is able to develop and distribute questionnaires to all of its suppliers. Bumble Bee also distributes a Supplier Code of Conduct that suppliers must acknowledge to be in compliance with.
Killeen also set out to tackle organization-wide training using NAVEXEngage, a Web-based training tool. Prior to implementing this, Killeen said he was hosting training on his own, traveling to Bumble Bee’s global operating sites to deliver training in-person. Key training topics include bribery, antitrust, and conflicts of interest.
Given Bumble Bee’s experience with its antitrust investigation, Killeen stressed the importance of other companies having in place robust antitrust policies and training. “Competition law and anti-trust is an area that many companies underplay or simply ignore,” he said. “Antitrust happens more than we like to think it does on both a macro and a micro level.” At a macro level, entire companies and their senior executives may be involved, whereas on a micro level you may have a couple of local competitors who agree to fix prices, or who allocate customers or markets. “Antitrust is out there. It’s a risk. It’s a threat. It’s something you should really look at in your compliance program.”
Flash e-mail example
Below is an example of a flash e-mail that Jeff Killeen, chief compliance officer at Bumble Bee Seafoods, might send to employees, posing a hypothetical ‘what would you do?’ scenario.
A potential customer from Southwest Asia is negotiating a high-value contract with us. You are part of the team engaged in the negotiations. The potential customer travels to see our operations in San Diego Springs and visits corporate headquarters. The potential customer says, ‘The contract negotiations sound very good but I’m also negotiating with (he names a chief competitor of the company) and says he could use $2,500 to cover some expenses.
‘What would you do?’
A. Give the person the $2,500 as a cash advance on the corporate card and ask for a receipt.
B. Give the person the $2,500 as a cash advance on your personal credit card and demand a receipt.
C. Give the person $250 cash. 10% is enough.
For other ethics and compliance professionals thinking about implementing a Web-based training solution, Killeen recommends shopping it around first. “There is some really good stuff out there. There is not-so-good stuff out there.”
Killeen said he further bolsters training by pushing out weekly flash-learning e-mails to all employees with an e-mail address. These flash-learning e-mails cover a wide range of compliance topics that are relevant to the company. Employees are presented with a particular scenario in which they are then asked, ‘What would you do?’ The scenario is followed by multiple-choice answers. “After my signature block, I give them the right answer,” Killeen said. An archive of these e-mails is stored on the company’s intranet, the Fishbowl.
Bumble Bee also automates and centralizes its policies and procedures with PolicyTech. Killeen said he developed and drafted several policies, including a new corporate Code of Conduct, a Supplier Code of Conduct, and a new policy addressing drayage (the transport of cargo, freight, or shipments over a short distance). The drayage policy was put in place to address human rights abuses concerning employee work hours.
Killeen said he is now able to more effectively distribute policies and collect attestations. “The return-on-investment is ease of use. It saves you and employees time, and you get great metrics,” he said.
From there, Killeen said he further adjusted the solution to meet business needs by incorporating three additional compliance areas into the PolicyTech solution: conflict of interest; gifts, meals, and entertainment; and a competition contacts policy. The antitrust and competition policy, for example, was developed shortly after joining Bumble Bee, Killeen said. That policy states, “‘if you have contact with any competitor, you must report it within 24 hours.’ I want to know who is contacting competitors, where, why, how, and then I can adjust training to that.” Employees must fill out the form and attest to the competition policy.
Under Bumble Bee’s Conflicts of Interest policy, employees must report “actual, potential, and perceived conflicts of interest,” and they are also expected to report under its Gifts, Meals, and Entertainment Policy the “giving of gifts, meals, and entertainment.”
“Many tools out there can be modified for your needs,” Killeen said. That’s an important consideration when choosing an ethics and compliance solution, he said. “Work with vendors to meet your needs. Use your own creativity to make the program yours. Bundle solutions if you can to get more for your money.” Most vendors are eager to negotiate for your business and want to establish a long-term relationship to help you achieve your goals.
Based on his experience as an FBI Special Agent, Killeen offered some especially insightful advice on how to conduct an effective internal investigation. “It takes years—years—of complex investigations and interviews to develop a quality investigator,” he said. Thus, if you can afford it, hire your own investigator, he advised. There are many former and retired high-quality law enforcement investigators from the FBI and elsewhere that are excellent and seeking meaningful work.
Avoid the mistake—as many companies often do—of spending an exorbitant amount of money for a subpar investigation conducted by subpar investigators. “I’ve seen this scenario played out several times,” Killeen said.
He cited a real-life example of a company that discovered a series of e-mails setting out a bribery scheme involving locations in multiple countries. The company hired a law firm to conduct the investigation. Killeen said he went along for the interview, in which he observed the attorney follow a script of questions. “The attorney never varied from the script, just check off all the questions, and never asked follow-up questions,” he said.
The individual being interviewed, who was clearly guilty based on the evidence at hand, concocted a lie that the attorney bought. “We later reinterviewed the subject,” Killeen said, and the person ultimately admitted to the wrongdoing.
“Some attorneys can conduct excellent interviews, but a law degree or HR degree does not necessarily make someone a quality investigator,” Killeen added. “It behooves you to make sure your company has experienced investigators with a track record.”
Carefully consider the following questions: Who is conducting the internal investigation for the company? Are they qualified? What experience have they had? Do they have experience handling confrontational interviews? Do they have report-writing experience?
Killeen further warned against having an investigation protocol that follows a strict timeframe—a policy that will not be looked upon favorably by the Department of Justice. “A quality, complex investigation presentable to the Department of Justice or another regulator may take months or even years,” he said.
Good investigators cost money, but the return-on-investment is excellent, he stressed. Avoiding a shabby investigation will in the end cost the company less and, just as importantly, save the company from embarrassment before a court or the Department of Justice.