As the US government steps up its anti-corruption efforts, Clifford Chance has found that more clients in the region have questions about what they need to know to stay on (or move to) the right side of the law. The UK law firm will announce today that one of its top partners, Wendy Wysong, will begin splitting her time between New York and Hong Kong to advise on these issues.
A former US prosecutor and regulator, Wysong has extensive experience in US legislation and enforcement relating to export control and international crime, including the US foreign corrupt practices act (FCPA).
While in Asia, Wysong will operate as a registered foreign lawyer and advise clients on issues increasingly being raised in the region by the expansive reach of US legislation. She will work closely with Clifford Chance's Asian dispute resolution team, which already handles many of the region's high-profile regulatory and business crime cases, while continuing to maintain contacts and clients in the US.
"More than ever, having a deep understanding of how far US law can reach is critical to helping companies avoid or resolve issues and investigations that may arise during cross-border business activities," said Wysong.
"There is a tremendous increase in US government cross-border enforcement and regulatory activity, with a particular emphasis on Asia," added Juan Morillo, Clifford Chance's US practice area leader for litigation and dispute resolution.
Asian companies and territories are increasingly coming under the spotlight of US anti-corruption investigators – 25% of US FCPA convictions last year involved an Asian country, while another quarter of all pending FCPA investigations have an Asian connection. The effects can be devastating for a company.
"The impact of an investigation or successful conviction is far-reaching. As well as the fine and cost of the investigation and court proceedings, companies have to figure in damage to their reputation and credit rating, and may need to reconsider overseas investment plans," explained Wysong.
Wysong will be working alongside local specialists based in China and Hong Kong as the balance between understanding and languages is becoming increasingly important. "Certain practices have often been excused as 'just part of the culture', but times are changing -- companies can expect increased anti-corruption moves from Asian governments in the year ahead, so need to prepare on both fronts."
Companies also have to do more than keep their own house in order. They need to monitor their suppliers, and their suppliers' suppliers – in fact, the entire supply chain is under the spotlight and companies need to ensure that they have the right protections in place. "Turning a blind eye to others' actions is no defence. A company needs to run compliance checks and programmes and ensure it has protected itself properly from actions outside its control," said Wysong.
"Our current track record on a broad range of investigations and regulatory matters – from insider trading and fraud to criminal and regulatory investigations by Asian and international bodies – is second to none," said Martin Rogers, Clifford Chance's head of litigation and dispute resolution in Asia. "However, as many countries – in particular, the US – extend their legislative and investigative scope beyond their borders, having [Wysong] add essential skills and experience to our team will only serve to make us that much stronger."
Wysong is a former deputy assistant secretary for export enforcement and acting assistant secretary at the bureau of industry and security at the US department of commerce, where she served from 2004 to 2007. During this period, she managed its enforcement programme and was involved in the development and implementation of foreign policy. Prior to joining the department of commerce, Wysong was an assistant US attorney for the District of Columbia for 16 years.
Wysong’s arrival in Hong Kong closely follows last month's hire by Clifford Chance of one of China's leading litigators and arbitrators, Patrick Zheng.