"In Argentina, companies were not used to having to fully implement compliance measures"
Federico Gottlieb, chief compliance officer of Arcor Argentina, tells us about the Corporate Criminal Responsibility Law and its impact on the food sector, post-pandemic improvement opportunities and the most important skills for an in-house lawyer today.
Leaders League: What have been the most important recent regulatory changes in terms of compliance and risk prevention in Argentina and what has been their impact on the sector?
Federico Gottlieb: Compliance in Argentina is a relatively new phenomenon that began in earnest in 2018, when the Law of Corporate Criminal Responsibility arrived. Thus, for companies with a certain number of employees and level of invoicing, it has become mandatory to have a person responsible for internal compliance. Previously this was optional.
What is covered by this law?
Companies are obliged to have an integrity program, which consists of internal regulations to fight corruption in general terms. In Argentina, conduct is sanctioned if it violates duly codified laws. Corruption was always penalized but the difference was, in the past companies could not be sanctioned, only natural persons, now also legal persons can be penalized.
With the pandemic, much evolution in compliance had to be adapted to the new circumstances. For example, risk prevention had to adapt to the emergency.
What specific impact has the law had for the sector?
Companies are still adapting to the law. In Argentina, companies were not used to having to fully implement compliance measures; conceptually we appreciated it because all Arcor Group companies have a high ethical code that regulates the whole company, so this new law built on what we were doing out of conviction anyway, we just had to adjust internal rules and procedures, from production to sales, in response to it.
How did the pandemic affect you and what opportunities for improvement did you find?
Being a food company, we were essential workers. We tried to keep on the job. Although we were already evolving in terms of technology, this accelerated everything. Fortunately we were prepared for it. For us it had a major impact because, in addition to compliance, I am in charge of legal aspects, not only in Argentina, but also in Chile, Brazil and other offices and with the fact that we could not travel, organizing everything remotely had a very big impact on daily management.
Once we got to grips with the situation we were able to contain organize staff and also to the psychological impact on workers, having weekly meetings to be able to share work experiences, as well as personal issues. This helped preserve the mental health of the workers.
In addition,, we were able to do virtual training at the general company level. Technology provided an opportunity opportunity for improvement, allowing us to speed up meetings and include more people in them.
How did your previous experience as legal manager of the company contribute to the position you hold today?
It was very important because, in addition to the technical knowledge that you have to have, you must know people; a person’s position doesn’t always tell you enough about who the person is. In a company there are people who do not have an elevated position but have a lot of responsibility. It is very important to know the basics of the company in order to move up the ladder.
Besides, regular training keeps you informed, refreshes your knowledge and helps you anticipate issues, and solve problems you previously may not have been able to.
What do you think are the most important skills that a corporate lawyer needs to have nowadays?
Professional training in each area is what should be emphasized the most, the baseline is having the professional knowledge to start participating in the life of the company. Once you are in a position to do this, I recommend getting to know the business where you work from end to end, that is, from the purchase of raw materials to the sale of the product and its distribution; that is, knowing the process of production, warehousing, storage, logistics, delivery to customers and, finally, how the consumer receives what is produced.
If you know your business well, everything is easier. Lawyers are often dealing with conflict situations and to solve them having more alternatives it is good, therefore understandingthe business from end to end helps with identifying opportunities for improvement and avoiding problems that may arise.
Given the large number of issues that may arise, I believe that we should not focus on a speciality, but, rather, be generalists. In such a large company we become generalists by acquiring a lot of knowledge in several areas of the profession.
Does that imply leaving a little bit the traditional role of a lawyer behind?
Yes, a little bit.. The range is so wide that there is room for specialists and also generalists, but personally and from the firm’s perspective, I think it is essential to be a generalist because you have to be able to assess the relative importance all the issues that arise to be in a position to know when it is appropriate to look for a specialist.
What personal achievement has given you the greatest satisfaction during your current role in Arcor?
I have been with the company for 18 years and I have had many moments of personal and professional satisfaction. In general terms, the last M&A processes and joint ventures with foreign companies in which I have participated have given me a lot of satisfaction due to the magnitude of the transactions and the successful results we have had.
What does a company's legal department expect from the law firms it works with?
I expect them to help us solve all internal problems. As a rule, we try to handle everything internally, but when something requires external expertise, we ask for support from external firms.
We hire specialists. Each task we take on requires specialist advice, which could be a one-off consultation or the accompaniment throughout a process, as in the case of an M&A, where even though we handle the process, external support is fundamental.
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