On Sept 16, 2015, The Antitrust Division announced that Kayaba Industry Co. Ltd., dba KYB Corporation (KYB) had agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $62 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix the price of shock absorbers installed in cars and motorcycles sold to U.S. consumers. The plea agreement indicated that KYB would receive credit for instituting an effective compliance program going forward. The Division had only recently announced that it was possible for a company to get credit for a forward-looking compliance program that change the culture of the company. This was a big and new step for the Division so there was a great deal of curiosity as to what the company did that the Division considered credit worthy. Yesterday, the Division filed its sentencing memorandum which gives an outline of the compliance steps that KYB took.
The first thing to note is that the government praised KYB’s cooperation, noting that it cooperated early, the CEO ordered a complete and timely internal investigation, and the company has made employees and documents available that were outside the US. I would say that early and complete cooperation is probably the most important factor in convincing the government that there has been a change in culture. But, in the past, that alone would not earn a company any credit for a compliance program. In its sentencing memorandum, the Division said this about KYB’s compliance efforts:
“KYB’s compliance policy has the hallmarks of an effective compliance policy including direction from top management at the company, training, anonymous reporting, proactive monitoring and auditing, and provided for discipline of employees who violated the policy.” Case: 1:15-cr-00098-MRB Doc #: 21 Filed: 10/05/15.
These steps closely follow the US Sentencing Guidelines outline for an effective compliance and ethics program: US Sentencing Guidelines, §8B2.1. Effective Compliance and Ethics Program.
At a recent conference, Brent Snyder indicated that more pleas with credit for compliance programs are in the works and will provide a roadmap for what the Division considers an effective compliance programs. I wrote about that in a recent blog post (here). [Note: There was one other plea agreement in the Forex investigation that indicated credit for a compliance program, but that sentencing memorandum has not yet been filed. Blog post here.]
The credit for a compliance program is a welcome development. But, the current policy raises one question in my mind. The Division has indicated that it still will not credit “backward looking compliance programs,” that is, compliance programs that have failed. But, what if KYB had had this compliance program in place all along, yet certain managers violated it? In that case, the company would not have received credit for the same program? It will be interesting to see how the Division’s approach to compliance programs evolves.
Thanks for reading.