One new and different item was laid out in the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Program, supplementing the Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program from the 2012 FCPA Guidance. This was the performance of a root cause analysis for any compliance violation that may led to a self-disclosure or enforcement action. Under Prong 1 Analysis and Remediation of Underlying Misconduct, the Evaluation stated:

 Root Cause Analysis – What is the company’s root cause analysis of the misconduct at issue? What systemic issues were identified? Who in the company was involved in making the analysis? 

Prior Indications – Were there prior opportunities to detect the misconduct in question, such as audit reports identifying relevant control failures or allegations, complaints, or investigations involving similar issues? What is the company’s analysis of why such opportunities were missed? 

The new Department of Justice (DOJ) FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy brought forward this requirement for a root cause analysis with the following language: “Demonstration of thorough analysis of causes of underlying conduct (i.e., a root cause analysis) and, where appropriate, remediation to address the root causes;”.

A root cause analysis is reactive rather than proactive. The site has defined root cause analysis as “The purpose of root cause analysis is to strike at the root of a problem by finding and resolving its root causes. Root cause analysis is a class of problem solving methods aimed at identifying the root causes of problems or events. ... The practice of root cause analysis is predicated on the belief that problems are best solved by attempting to correct or eliminate root causes, as opposed to merely addressing the immediately obvious symptoms.”

One way to think about a root cause analysis is that it is a research-based approach to identifying the bottom line reason of a problem or an issue; with the root cause, not the proximate cause the source of the problem. Contrast this with an investigation in which you are trying to test to truth or not of evidence or that of a risk assessment which is performed on a proactive basis based on various facts in existence.

The Justice Department has mandated a root cause analysis should be performed for every incident rising to the level of a compliance violation. Is your team ready to do so?