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Sep 30, 2013

SNC-Lavalin says 32 employees made amnesty requests from June to August

A policy to govern engagements with business partners, an anti-corruption manual and 15 compliance officer appointments are among the steps the company has taken so far to shore up its compliance program   

SNC-Lavalin said on September 30 that 32 employees made requests for amnesty and came forward to report ethical violations they were aware of during the amnesty period the company provided between June 3 and August 31. None of the employees provided new material information, but what they shared confirmed earlier assessments the company had made of its corruption risks.

The purpose of the amnesty program was to confront and resolve any remaining issues quickly rather than allowing them to fester and come to light gradually over an extended time period, Andreas Pohlmann, SNC-Lavalin’s chief compliance officer, told Corporate Secretary in a June interview. 

The amnesty program is one of several initiatives the Montreal-based engineering and construction company has launched this year since Pohlmann’s appointment in March.  It also published an Anti-Corruption Manual for its 34,000 employees worldwide that is meant to complement the recently-improved Code of Ethics by laying out mandatory principles in seven key areas of business activity prone to corruption risk, including gifts and hospitality, corporate charitable donations, business partners and recordkeeping. The manual outlines acceptable and unacceptable conduct in a user-friendly manner and reaffirms the need for compliance with applicable laws.

In August, at the Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries’ annual conference, during a session on anti-corruption and bribery, Pohlmann unveiled SNC-Lavalin’s new  compliance organization designed to detect and deal with compliance issues whenever and wherever they may occur throughout the company. It includes five senior management appointments focused on such areas as compliance program monitoring and investigations; seven compliance officers at business units such as Instruments & Controls, Transportation and Power; and three regional compliance officers in Europe, Latin America and Africa/Middle East. Each of the 15 officers reports directly to Pohlmann.

SNC-Lavalin has also rolled out a new policy for engaging with business partners that.establishes principles and due diligence procedures to be followed before entering into an agreement with parties who will act on behalf of the company. This policy aims to ensure that SNC-Lavalin deals only with people or organizations of integrity and in good standing with the business community, and which have the background, reputation and qualifications required for the services they provide.

‘Even when we don’t have control in a joint venture [where SNC-Lavalin has] a minority interest, there are tools we can  use to ask controlling joint venture partners to follow,” Pohlmann said during the anti-corruption session at the CSCS conference. ‘When the controlling partners don’t want to follow those rules, we ask SNC-Lavalin’s representative to the JV to ask questions and that they be read into board meeting minutes.’

He added that the level of risk involved in a proposed relationship between SNC-Lavalin and a business partner will determine the extent of the due diligence review it will conduct.

The company also has created a personal compliance training program for all employees, with particular focus on those working in functions that are known to expose employees to a higher level of corruption risk. The training, to be provided in person by compliance experts, aims to equip employees with the tools they need to do business in line with high ethical standards, regardless of the regulatory circumstances or external parties they encounter.

In addition, the company has hired an independent monitor who reports to the World Bank and will offer suggestions for SNC-Lavalin to hone and enhance its compliance program from this point on. As part of its settlement agreement with the World Bank, which has banned the company and 100 of its subsidiaries from bidding on any World Bank development project for the next 10 years, SNC-Lavalin will be monitored over the next few years by lawyers with experience with the Foreign Corruption Practices Act. 

David Bogoslaw

Associate Editor and Online features producer for Corporate Secretary