Given the relentless pace of change in our business, and with technologies that give the illusion of a truly connected world, it is easy to forget that we live in a time that is, in many important ways, just as complex as it was 100 years ago.
Every day, we work in an evolving environment where we must adapt to changing laws and increased demands for privacy. We capitalize on smartphones and 24-7 connections, but there is a timeless aspect as well, in the ways that people and cultures around the world are driven by different motives and norms. That is one of the great challenges in conducting foreign investigations. As claims professionals and adjudicators, we must remain flexible and understand that other societies simply do not operate as we do in the U.S. and Canada
We encounter many calamities and high-pressure situations throughout the globe, where people face daily life-and-death decisions. While laws have been enacted the world over to prevent terrorism, illegal immigration, and corruption, the reality is that most countries still operate in the same manner they have for hundreds of years. It is particularly difficult to overcome an entrenched mindset, despite the laws we incorporate into our practices.
In the U.S., we have implemented the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Sarbanes-Oxley, Gramm-Leach-Bliley, and more. But these laws are difficult to enforce in countries that have operated within their own cultural norms and mores for thousands of years. It is difficult to change the mordida way of life in Latin America that has existed for centuries. Mordida, literally meaning a “bite,” is the way people pay one another to get things done.
This concept of mordida exists not just in Latin America, but throughout the world, albeit with different names in different locales. It becomes extremely difficult to operate within the scope of these culturally accepted practices when conducting investigations, but we take every precaution to ensure we operate completely within the rules.
The government has devoted billions of dollars in resources to stem illegal immigration. By making it more difficult for immigrants to enter the U.S., these regulations have given rise to a very lucrative trafficking industry, where thousands of desperate people still illegally enter the country. The old axiom holds true: where there is a will, there is a way.
We must understand that our laws mean nothing to someone living in an environment where there are no jobs and no food for their families. You can only imagine the determination one must have to enter the U.S. despite the immense risk and danger. It is doubtful that when facing certain hardship or the opportunity at a better life, many people pause to think of the legal ramifications.
It is our job to become more educated and understand the complexities of foreign countries that are driven by different goals and motivations. Through strong relationships with our DIG investigators, we are fortunate to have a thorough comprehension of local situations. We understand that we are always at risk and may encounter problems with agents, politicians, and government agencies in their processes and cultural mindsets. The one constant is that, in foreign investigations, nothing is constant and we must be attentive to all potential governmental and cultural risks.
As Americans, we must evolve from thinking that everyone operates the same way we operate. That is a simplistic and ethnocentric way of thinking that will invariably get us in trouble when reviewing foreign claims. One major risk we see involves the failure to adapt and increase our global knowledge to understand local logistics and current events where we operate. It is essential to have a diverse and experienced group of adjudicators who understand local languages and practices. As an Industry, we must do a better job of putting people in place who understand and work within with these parameters daily. A simple language barrier can cause major problems in how information is communicated. And complex foreign laws can present significant obstacles.
The best caveat I can leave you with is to not think as an American. Be open and flexible. Understand the logistics, language, and current events of places where you are conducting investigations.
At Diligence International Group LLC, we take pride in our long history serving the industry by preventing and detecting potential frauds, continuously developing anti-fraud solutions, and making an impact in lessening the incidence of fraud.
Although the challenges become greater, we are very proud of our team and the incomparable service we provide to our clients that fosters real partnership against fraud and a resource for the industry.
Richard J. Marquez