There’s an App for That

Qualcomm turns its innovation inward, making compliance interactive with a mobile app

One of the leading wireless communication technology companies in the world, Qualcomm, is a global beacon for success and innovation. In its pursuit of the ethical practice of business, the company is demonstrating that technology and ingenuity can enable compliance as well as communication.

Bill Sailer, senior vice president of legal counsel, is the force behind Qualcomm’s legal expertise. Sailer’s role with the company has changed as compliance law has undergone a radical transformation over the last couple of years. This is in large part due to the increased criminalization of conduct and enforcement initiatives. “You’ve got to know the law,” Sailer says, “and if you don’t know it, you have got to learn it.” While his role has evolved and changed during his 18 years with the company, one thing has remained
constant: the focus on compliance.

Compliance is not a single legal issue. Legal governance, risk management, and compliance have increasingly become critical initiatives within multinational corporations. Qualcomm has always taken its compliance obligations seriously, especially as it has grown in size and scope.

For the last 15 years, anticorruption law has become a particular specialty for Sailer. Though a chief compliance officer was hired last year to directly oversee those efforts for Qualcomm, Sailer works closely with him and his team to provide strategic advice to address key areas of risk. Like any global company, Qualcomm devotes substantial resources toward these compliance issues.

When it comes to educating employees at Qualcomm about compliance, Sailer and the team rely upon several technology-based strategies to leverage the available resources. In addition to performing training online and in-person, Sailer’s team also created a six-minute animated video that gives an overview of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

There are still many questions that surround the FCPA, and Sailer acknowledges the murkiness of the law. “The challenge of FCPA and anticorruption laws is that the things that you are not allowed to do are not always intuitively known,” he says. Sailer and his team work daily to make sure everyone at Qualcomm treats anticorruption compliance as a priority.

The training video was a natural progression of many of Qualcomm’s technological achievements. “It provides the context of compliance and a framework for people understanding what their obligations are in a quick way,” Sailer says. That animated video was well-received within the company and ushered in several other initiatives.

A fitting next move for a mobile technology company was to create a mobile-centered app for employees to use as a tool to help them comply with the company’s FCPA and anticorruption policies. The app provides policy, a training video, and common scenarios with processes to follow for each.

Since the app is easily accessible through any mobile device, any employee can have a question answered almost immediately without having to reach out to human resources or anther colleague. For example, if a Qualcomm employee is having dinner with a foreign official, he or she can consult the app for the proper protocol, such as whether it’s appropriate to pay for the dinner or to give a gift. The app provides numerous scenarios that easily help employees learn what type of behavior is appropriate.

Sailer emphasizes that another important factor for compliance comes from companies themselves. “You have to have a culture that encourages [compliance],” he says. Qualcomm’s leadership is committed to ensuring ethical behavior throughout the company. A company that actively commits to engaging in business with honesty and integrity will see that reflected in its employees and their conduct.

Qualcomm represents what it takes to become a leader in ensuring compliance, since the company has found many new and innovative ways for employees to navigate an often tough legal maze.

Sailer stresses that when it comes to compliance, Qualcomm can’t simply “steer” employees to behave by constantly looking over their shoulders. “The goal is to create an environment where people know what their responsibilities are and to give them the tools to comply,” he says. According to Sailer, there are three main things that Qualcomm endeavors to provide when it comes to compliance: “While you obviously want to have appropriate policies, as well as a mechanism to determine if people are following rules, the most important thing is to create an environment in which people want to follow the rules.”