I find the world of sports to be a rich source of tutorials on things not to do for the FCPA compliance practitioner; from suspending Tom Brady for events which happened after DeflateGate, to the St. Louis Cardinals hacking the Houston Astros (of all teams) to steal secrets around player evaluations, 2015 has been a great year for lessons learned from the world of sports that carry weight in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance.
Today we have one across the pond, from that paragon of soccer royalty, Manchester United. (Full disclosure: my wife is a huge ManU fan; me, the Liverpool Football Club). The lesson is not around policies or procedures, or even how to treat people, but in the arena of technology.
ManU was trying to sell player David De Gea to the Spanish club Real Madrid. In the byzantine rules of European soccer-player movement, there was a transfer window that closed at midnight on Aug.31. De Gea was fine with the deal, as Madrid is his hometown.
The paperwork to complete the transaction, however, was not completed by the midnight deadline. Of course both sides pointed their respective soccer royalty fingers at each other. According to The Guardian, “Manchester United have accused Real Madrid of scuppering David de Gea’s £29m transfer.” The same article reported “Real instead issued a ten-point statement absolving themselves of blame for the debacle at the same time as alluding to United’s failure to advance the deal quickly enough.”
Then on Sept. 2, ManU announced it was upgrading its computer system—which another article in he Guardian reported was a Windows 95 system. That is not a typo; one of the world’s greatest soccer powers reportedly uses Windows 95 as its primary operating system. If a company claims that a transaction is the fault of a counter-party, and after the deal falls through announces it is upgrading is (apparently) 20-year-old operating system, it may well be some IT issues came into play.
The lesson for the compliance practitioner? Not only do you need to keep your company abreast of FCPA compliance program best practices; the same is true around technology, too.
I recently interviewed Michael Shepard, a partner and white collar defense lawyer at Hogan Lovells, around data analytics in FCPA compliance programs. One point he related is that the Justice Department expects that companies will make use of new technologies to advance their compliance programs. Just as ManU learned, the world is far past Windows 95. Your FCPA compliance program technology should be as well.