Jason Waite, partner in the firm’s International Trade & Regulatory Group, was quoted in Compliance Week discussing lessons learned in the wake of BNP Paribas’ record $8.9 billion settlement with the Justice Department.
Waite said the biggest takeaway is, “Don’t process transactions for sanctioned countries.”
Another lesson highlighted by the case: the need for clear escalation procedures and communicating the importance of the value of compliance.
“It helps to have a pre-established path of escalation within the company,” Waite said.
“As a compliance officer, you want to be able to communicate effectively, persuasively and specifically about why a particular course of action or conduct presents substantial compliance risks to a company,” Waite says.
Particularly in sanctions cases, that task is not always easy, especially for senior management “who can sometimes be very headstrong and, in the case of foreign companies, have their own cultural tendencies or skepticism about the reach of U.S. laws or the purpose of U.S. sanctions,” Waite adds.
“My advice to compliance personnel is not to editorialize. Stick to the facts and the law: ‘Here is what U.S. sanctions provide. Here is how they extend to foreign banks. Here are the potential consequences. This is why we shouldn’t engage in this misconduct. This is the extent of the risk to the company,’” he says.