A prior post highlights five notable features of the new National Anti-Corruption System (SNA) in Mexico. This post discussed five more that could be particularly relevant to non-Mexican companies and individuals.
Individual Liability Bolstered. The SNA establishes the General Law of Administrative Liabilities and amends the Federal Criminal Code in ways that bolster individual liability for bribery and bribery-related offenses. Mexican and non-Mexican individuals will be liable for “serious administrative offenses,” such as bribery, collusion in public bid procedures, influence peddling, wrongful use of public resources, and wrongful recruitment of ex-public servants. The burden of proof for the administrative violation is relatively low – “beyond a reasonable doubt” – and the statute of limitations is long – seven years. Individual administrative sanctions include monetary penalties up to twice the amount of the acquired benefits and, if there is no tangible benefit, approximately US$600,000. Sanctions can also include debarment from public contracting of up to eight years, as well as compensatory damages and lost profits to the public treasury. The Federal Criminal Code also establishes criminal liability for bribery of Mexican and non-Mexican officials, as well as use of false information in procurement processes and influence peddling.
Corporate Liability Established. The General Law of Administrative Liabilities applies to both Mexican companies and foreign companies with presence in Mexico. Corporate entities will be liable for “serious administrative offenses,” including bribery, collusion in public bid procedures, influence peddling, wrongful use of public resources, and wrongful recruitment of ex-public servants, when acts related to the offenses are committed by individuals acting in the name of or representing the entity. This can include acts of agents and other third parties. Administrative sanctions can reach up to twice the amount of the benefit or, if no monetary benefit, up to approximately US$6 million. They can also include debarment of up to ten years from public contracting, suspension of activities up to three years, dissolution of the corporate entity, and the payment of damages, compensatory damages, and lost profits to the public treasury. Corporate criminal liability can be established if the government establishes that an individual acting on behalf of the company committed a criminal offense and the company did not have an adequate compliance program in place to prevent the act. Criminal penalties can include fines, suspension, debarment, and direct intervention of the government in the company’s operations.
Mitigation for Compliance Programs. The General Law of Administrative Liabilities explicitly provides mitigation for companies that have adequate compliance programs in place. It describes seven components for an adequate program: (1) a clearly-written organization and procedures manual that delineates leadership responsibilities; (2) a code of conduct; (3) adequate and effective supervision, audit and control systems to constantly and periodically examine compliance of integrity standards throughout the organization; (4) whistleblower and reporting systems with disciplinary procedures for employees who violate company policies or Mexican law; (5) training; (6) nondiscriminatory HR policies that prevent hiring individuals who could compromise the company’s integrity; and (7) mechanisms that ensure transparency and disclosure of interests.
Leniency Mechanisms Established. The General Law of Administrative Liabilities provides that corporate entities may receive credit for self-reporting misconduct and cooperating with government investigations. An individual can also reduce sanctions amounts by between 50% and 70% in the event the individual confesses and cooperates with government authorities.
National Digital Platform Created. The SNA establishes a new digital platform that plays various roles. It serves as an anonymous reporting mechanism for the public. It creates a registry of companies and individuals sanctioned for corrupt acts. It provides information about public procurements to improve transparency. It also creates a registry of public servant tax returns, statements of assets, and declarations of conflicts of interests.
Uncertain Future. A critical question going forward relates to whether this impressive system of processes, mechanisms, and laws will be implemented in a meaningful way. For example, the SNA is designed to facilitate international cooperation. Mexican authorities are expected to collaborate with international authorities for the strengthening of investigations and sharing of international best practices. A Coordinating Committee is empowered to take part in international collaboration mechanisms for fighting corruption. Whether these efforts will in fact happen is uncertain. Similarly, only time will tell if the Mexican Government will adequately fund the SNA’s various components. While the current Presidential Administration has generally been behind the SNA efforts, the 2018 elections might bring a new President whose support is less clear.
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Post authored by Matt Ellis, FCPAméricas Founder & Editor