How a Sports Fan Saved His Company With Effective Compliance

Lauren Jackson |

In 2015, when FIFA was experiencing scandal from all sides, lifelong sports fan Pedro Castro Nevares was called in to take over the compliance function at Torneos y Competencias, a South American sports marketing firm that faced bribery and conspiracy allegations.  

With a hailstorm of indictments raining down on the company prior to Nevares joining, including fraud, racketeering and money laundering, and their former CEO briefly labeled a fugitive, the Torneos eventually agreed to forfeit over $110 million in profit and criminal penalties.

With no executives and no leadership team leftover after the scandal, the company basically had to start from scratch. Their mission – to build an ethical company with an effective compliance program at their core.

Intent on saving the company, in just a few short years Nevares held regulators at bay while establishing a successful compliance operation. He’s now recognized as a pioneer in cross-border compliance and as a recipient of Compliance Week’s 2018 Top Minds Award.

How’d he do it?

How did he accomplish this amazing feat? And why should we care? Because how Nevares turned his company’s compliance function around radically changed his company’s standing in the international market. And if he can take, not just a single compliance program, but an entire company, from shocking scandal and near-total destruction to a gleaming beacon of effective compliance, there’s hope for your compliance program too.  

So how did Nevares turn it around?

First, he sought the resources, tools and collaboration he needed to build an effective compliance program from scratch.  

“We worked in close cooperation with the Department of Justice in New York and with our US counsel making sure what we were doing was aligned with their expectations, both in terms of cooperation but also looking to put the company in a remediation process and in a healthy state,” Nevares states in a recent interview. 

Next, his company adopted a strict code of conduct that could realistically meet the expectations of their US offices and the day-to-day realities of running a business in Argentina. The code tackles many of the key elements of effective compliance programs, including the importance of tone from the top, bribery and anti-money laundering.

This code helped establish a dedication to growing a culture of compliance where there previously wasn’t one. From this code, they established what most international regulators agree to be the foundation of an effective compliance program – specific policies, principles and procedures.

Next, Nevares expanded the compliance department to help meet the needs of the new code of conduct. With new help at hand, Nevares was able to train directors and company leadership on the code to enforce tone from the top compliance. This leadership was then able to hold their employees – and each other – accountable for their actions.

What’s next?

So what’s the next phase in maintaining this model of effective compliance moving forward? Nevares stresses the continued importance of internal communications and training and the role of policy management for their future.

While taking a stand against outdated thinking towards compliance can feel scary, Nevares refuses to do business according to the old rules.  

“It’s a challenging environment, but we are looking at this as the way the whole industry is trying to turn around. We very much are basically a driver of that change, and we look forward to continuing to do that and leading that process as much as we can,” Nevares states.

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