Frances McLeod and the Forensic Risk Alliance team Win Consulting Team of the Year at ‘Women in Compliance Awards 2014’* Frances McLeod, one of the three founding partners of Forensic Risk Alliance (FRA), and her team have won Consulting Team of the Year at the 2014 ‘Women in Compliance awards‘. The award was open to all providers of COMPLIANCE consulting services, where the team is led by a woman or can demonstrate that the women on the team contribute significantly to the team’s overall success. Some questions for Frances:
What made you dedicate your professional life to compliance related issues?
Actually, this is my second career. My first was in investment banking where I spent several years doing M&A advisory work and corporate finance in London and the Far East. My last posting as a banker was to Indonesia in the early to mid-1990s. It wasn’t my first exposure to corruption issues as I had traveled extensively in the developing world and had lived elsewhere in Asia, but it did highlight how corruption retards economic and social development and my interest in how to combat corruption as well as other economic crime was piqued, particularly as I fell in love with this beautiful, incredibly varied, complex country and its people. Fast forward by almost 20 years and now a large part of my work and that of FRA is focused on helping companies, their legal advisors, finance functions and risk managers address problems that have arisen as a result of compliance and control failures (problems such as bribery, kickbacks, fraud, money laundering, insider trading to name a few) or helping them test and, as necessary enhance, their compliance programs and their financial controls. Interestingly, my work still takes me to Asia not infrequently, including to Indonesia. Corruption on a grand scale – such as that perpetrated by the then “first family” has been curbed (though not entirely eliminated) – however, lower level and widespread corruption still remains a risk and the typologies are constantly changing to reflect loopholes being closed. This makes anti-bribery and corruption compliance a challenge, but a challenge that most multi-national companies operating in this environment take seriously. I, and the rest of my team, continue to be passionate about helping them do this, not just in Indonesia, but all over the world.
Are you optimistic that the increasingly tough international regulations will result in more transparent business practices?
I am cautiously optimistic. Being a forensic accountant one tends to be called in when a problem is suspected or to help remediate once one has been addressed, so one tends towards cynicism. However, I do believe that increasingly tough regulations in a variety of areas – anti-corruption, finance, anti-trust, to name a few – and, very importantly, enforcement of these regulations (including international enforcement efforts) are changing business practices and the trend is towards greater transparency and greater accountability within corporations. The risks of not just fines and penalties for non- compliance (which as some of the recent US and UK bank settlements have demonstrated can be very significant), but of debarment, reputational damage and follow on litigation are also key drivers. Increasingly too, we note that companies see the benefit of pushing compliance (and responsibility for it) up and down the hierarchy within companies – by that I mean there are commercial “side benefits” to compliance. For example, robust financial controls that may be designed to prevent illicit payments tend also to deter fraud and wastage. Equally, aligning incentives or mandating adherence to compliance as part of incentive calculations for those in sales or trading functions may reduce the temptation to win projects that may not ultimately be profitable for the company, or to “go rogue” as we have seen certain traders do at a number of banks over the past few years.
What is the composition of the FRA team?
Over 50% of FRA’s workforce is made up of women. The team of over 75 professionals is comprised of multilingual forensic accountants, financial analysts, former investment bankers, eDiscovery specialists, software engineers, database experts and certified computer examiners. Some of them are recognized experts (including Frances) who regularly testify in front of courts and tribunals. They regularly publish articles or books which are considered useful reference points in the anti-corruption and compliance arenas. The team has lived and worked in over 60 countries and have first-hand experience of the particular challenges faced by international companies operating in sectors as different as Oil & Gas, Mining, Engineering, Telecoms, Aerospace & Defense, Pharmaceuticals and Medical devices, Banking, Retail, etc. The team speaks most Western European languages as well as Chinese (Mandarin & Cantonese), Russian, Czech, Arabic, Polish and Baha Indonesia/Malay.
How does FRA help corporates with Compliance?
FRA provides advice to corporate clients (namely General Counsels, Compliance and Internal Audit Officers) who are strengthening anti-corruption and bribery compliance procedures, or who are responding to regulatory enforcement actions instigated by the DOJ, the SEC, the SFO, the Swiss Federal Prosecutor and other similar regulators. More and more often the team is required to perform pre and post-acquisition due diligence in an M&A or Joint-Venture context.
Frances McLeod, Managing Partner
Third Floor, Audrey House,
16-20 Ely Place
London EC1N 6SN
Tel: +44 (0)20 7 831 9110
With background from Caroline Fagard Director, Business Development
68 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré
75008 Paris France
Tel: +33 (0)1 53 43 62 61
*The Women in Compliance Awards is a C5 event which celebrates the achievements of women, recognising and rewarding the outstanding contribution that women make every day in the world of compliance.