When it comes to discussing the subject of compliance and corporate governance we always tend to hear about the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in these matters. However, there is yet another government party that plays a significant role in these issues on a global scale, and which seems to go generally overlooked; that being the Department of Commerce (DOC). With the goal of aiding in the promotion and development of commerce, foreign and domestic, the DOC works to help U.S. companies as they seek to conduct their business internationally. As an aspect of this responsibility, the DOC works to help ensure that companies are in compliance with all the necessary laws and regulations that come with doing business overseas, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
Logically the Department of Commerce is focused primarily on helping medium to small exporters, which studies have shown make up over ninety-five percent of U.S. exporters. It is these companies of course that struggle the greatest when it comes to meeting proper compliance regulations.While larger companies are not excluded from receiving help from the DOF, usually these companies have the knowledge and resources necessary for overseas expansion while effectively accounting for compliance laws.
For starters, the Department of Commerce will begin by helping connect companies with overseas venture partners and/or agents through their International Partner Search Program run by its Commercial Service which has business and trade professionals posted in embassies across the globe.All a company has to do is provide the DOC with the necessary marketing and background information on their organization and, through the Commercial Service, they will reach out through its foreign networks and contacts, even going so far as to interview potential candidates, eventually returning with a list of the top five most promising and qualified partners.
After a prospective partner has been identified, the Department of Commerce will help companies navigate all of the necessary due diligence efforts that must go in to assessing whether or not these companies represent a compliance threat. This is a particularly sensitive and important subject when it comes to conducting proper corporate governance practices, particularly given the new and complex laws now being enacted as provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act. The extensive measures necessary to conducting these checks can be complicated and taxing even to the largest organizations with well-developed compliance programs. For smaller companies this would be nearly impossible to do with any degree of success.
Tapping into the aid offered by the Department of Commerce can be an invaluable tool to any smaller organization hoping to break into foreign markets. The knowledge and skills offered by the Commercial Service of the country and region in question are extensive, allowing for companies to take a load off their own shoulders when it comes to learning and accounting for all the various laws that come with expanding into these regions. Essentially, for companies who do not wish to find themselves falling victim to their own ignorance of compliance issues, there is absolutely no reason not to approach a Commercial Service specialist, either here or abroad, at the very least to discuss options and concerns.