Compliance Challenges for In-House Counsel - Should ethical standards for conducting business be different from country to country?
Karina Pelaez, Legal & Compliance Head, Toyota Compañia Financiera de Argentina S.A., Argentina
Should ethical standards for conducting business be different from country to country? Since human behaviour in general must conform to ethics, a first answer seems to be "no". However, there are at least two aspects that should be considered. First, addressing behaviour at a macro level, we should ask ourselves whether we should behave according to the local ethic standards, or what is commonly referred to the principle of "When in Rome, do as Romans do"; this is particularly relevant in some countries where ethical behaviour is a lax concept.
A second aspect could be referred to as a micro-level analysis of day-to-day actions and interactions where ethical standards may be exported from country to country. While certain actions may be seen in some cultures as part of a normal and legally abiding behaviour, in some other countries they are a must not.
The role of in-house counsel should be to advise the Board of Directors and management in general on the understanding of the implications of doing business in various countries at both the macro and micro levels –especially in markets, such as Latin America, with different cultures and rules–, and at the same time to balance the absolute need of the company and its members to work ethically and in compliance with applicable laws and culture.
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