A company that does not perform adequate due diligence prior to a merger or acquisition may face both legal and business risks. Perhaps most commonly, inadequate due diligence can allow a course of bribery to continue – with all the attendant harms to a business’s profitability and reputation, as well as potential civil and criminal liability. While most compliance practitioners have been long aware of the requirement in the post-acquisition context, the 2012 FCPA Guidance focused many compliance practitioners of the need to engage in robust pre-acquisition due diligence.

This was expanded again in the 2017 Evaluation but the 2019 Guidance made even more clear the need for a robust compliance presence in the pre-acquisition phase. It stated, “A well-designed compliance program should include comprehensive due diligence of any acquisition targets.  Pre-M&A due diligence enables the acquiring company to evaluate more accurately each target’s value and negotiate for the costs of any corruption or misconduct to be borne by the target.  Flawed or incomplete due diligence can allow misconduct to continue at the target company, causing resulting harm to a business’s profitability and reputation and risking civil and criminal liability.

Three key takeaways:

  1. The results of your pre-acquisition due diligence will inform your post-acquisition integration and remediation going forward.
  2. Periodically review your M&A due diligence protocol.
  3. If red flags appear in pre-acquisition due diligence, they should be cleared.