Expand All

Code of Conduct Q&A Topical Listing

 

Anti-Boycott

Situation:

A pending contract with a freight company in Saudi Arabia states that they expect our company to abide by all laws of their country. Since our company always obeys overseas laws, this does not seem to be a problem. Is it?

Solution:

This is a potential boycott issue. Agreeing to abide by all of a country's laws may amount to signing a contract to support an unsanctioned boycott, which violates anti-boycott laws. Report this request to your company’s General Counsel.

Situation:

John is a U.S. citizen and company employee who is on a business trip in Burma. A high official of the Burmese Government advises John that he will approve a large contract between our company and Burma if John agrees not to do business with any company that does business with Israel. Does this request fall under the U. S. anti-boycott law?

Solution:

Absolutely! All U.S. citizens must abide by the anti-boycott rules and regulations anywhere they travel in the world.

Antitrust (Competitive Practices)

Situation:

As an assistant in the strategic planning department I am responsible for obtaining information about competitive companies. The method suggested is to talk to mid-level employees of the targeted company. By telling them that we are doing some benchmarking or that we have a job opening, we can sometimes encourage disclosure of confidential information. I can get great information but I feel I am deceiving the person I call. Should I make those kinds of calls?

Solution:

No. Do not call the competitors. There are many legitimate methods for obtaining information on competitors. The private conversations that you are having with our competitors are probably about pricing, customers and strategies. There are many laws and regulations that govern conversations of this nature. You may be putting our company at risk. Talk with the law department's antitrust counsel for advice.

Situation:

After our company recently raised our wholesale prices, I heard that our competitor raised their prices to exactly the same level. Now I see that retailers are raising their prices to reflect these increases. Do I need to be worried about antitrust issues here?

Solution:

No. As long as there is not price collusion among the players, there is no antitrust violation. If, on the other hand, you learned that someone in our company had negotiated a deal with our competitor to raise prices simultaneously with us, then you would need to report that information to one of the company’s reporting resources.

Conflicts of Interest

Situation:

I want to take a second job to make some extra money. Is this okay?

Solution:

Your first responsibility is to maintain your effectiveness and efficiency in your regular job duties. For instance, if overtime and weekend work is part of your job requirement, then you must be sure that the second job does not interfere with these responsibilities. In a situation where the other employer is an actual or potential competitor with the company, there is a potential conflict of interest. This circumstance should be discussed with your supervisor prior to taking the second job.

Situation:

I’m required to find a vendor for a product needed in my department. My supervisor has strongly suggested that I utilize a particular company that I know is owned by his daughter. How should I handle this?

Solution:

This is a potential conflict of interest. The hiring of a vendor that is owned by or employs a family member of Reynolds American or one of its subsidiaries should be reported to your company’s General Counsel or the Office of Ethics and Compliance to determine if an actual conflict of interest exists.

Situation:

As a project manager, I am responsible for hiring outside consultants to complete various projects. My cousin is a subcontractor to one of the consultants I'm considering. He is well qualified to do the work and has a strong reputation in his field. Can I hire him?

Solution:

This is a conflict of interest for you because of the family relationship. In practical terms, this situation presents two problems. First, other consultants could claim they were not treated fairly because of the family relationship. Second, it may be difficult for you to address performance problems in the project if it harms your cousin’s interests. Discuss the situation with your manager and remove yourself from the decision-making process.

Situation:

A supplier offers your son or daughter a part-time job during school breaks. Can he or she accept?

Solution:

This is a potential conflict which could raise claims of unfair treatment by other suppliers. You should disclose the opportunity to your supervisor and get input or approval.

Dealing with Customers and Potential Customers

Situation:

A supplier has invited me to an annual trade show and offered to pay all expenses. I said that I may not accept and that our company will have to pay. The supplier suggested that our company pay the airfare and that he would pay the hotel and meals since the supplier has a discount rate. Is this OK?

Solution:

Determine whether or not going to the show is a good business decision. If it is, our company should pay all expenses as it would for any business trip. Accepting the trip could create an impression of undue influence.

Ethical Thinking and Reporting Possible Violations

Situation:

Employees have attended ethics training and most of the people I know try to do the right thing all the time. What are our executives doing to support this effort?

Solution:

Our executives and directors are committed to integrity and ethical decisions. The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines have recently been revised to require executives to be trained in ethics and to ensure that the company’s ethics and compliance programs are effective. This will be a continuing effort that will be reflected in everything we do.

Situation:

In this challenging economy, can we afford to make this kind of commitment to ethics? It seems like everyone is spending time that could be spent on other things. Is the ethics program just one more initiative in our too full schedules?

Solution:

Ethics are a critical part of our success. Ethics are all about honesty and trust, and honesty is good for business. It’s the foundation of successful relationships with customers, competitors, and one another. It is important for us to avoid legal and regulatory problems, but in the long run, it’s even more important for us to maintain a reputation as an honest company.

Situation:

Sally, a manager, does not always feel comfortable answering questions about the Code of Conduct. For this reason she always tells her direct reports to call the Office of Ethics and Compliance. Is Sally right?

Solution:

Managers should know the rules, policies and procedures that apply to their groups’ work. If they are unsure, they should refer to written policies or the Code of Conduct. If employees see a manager referencing the guide, they will be encouraged to do so too. If Sally is still unsure about the answer to a question, she or any employee may call their company’s General Counsel, their HR representative or the Office of Ethics and Compliance.

Situation:

Most of my direct reports have “simple” questions about the Code and policies. I don’t want them bothering anyone outside the department to get answers that they could get here, and I sure don’t want management to think I can’t handle things myself. Is it OK to tell my direct reports to always ask me first if they have any questions?

Solution:

As a supervisor, you certainly want to handle as many of your direct report’s questions as possible. However, you must never give the impression that you are a barrier to the employee’s access to upper management, HR, or the Office of Ethics and Compliance. It is every employee’s right to seek out these resources for clarification or reports.

Situation:

I often feel pressured to “cover” for the team or “not go outside the chain of command” with a complaint. When does the idea of “take one for the team” go too far?

Solution:

You should always feel free to take your questions to your supervisor, division management, HR, the Office of Ethics and Compliance, EthicsLine, or the Audit Committee--whichever is best for the problem at hand. Our company has a strict policy against retaliation, and we welcome reports and questions from those whose intentions are to improve the process and avoid wrongdoing. If a problem is known sooner, it can be resolved more easily. Never cover up a problem.

Situation:

I have been reminded lately about my “obligation to report wrongdoing.” What does that have to do with Sarbanes-Oxley?

Solution:

Sarbanes-Oxley provides very specific protection for “whistleblowers”: employees that report evidence that a company is knowingly falsifying financial records that affect the bottom line. Our company is interested in resolving questions or oversights before they become problems. Always report your observations to one of the company’s reporting resources for further investigation.

Situation:

As a sales representative, I find it difficult to swallow all this talk about integrity when I’m still measured by the numbers every month. What counts more?

Solution:

Think of it this way: your best deal is nothing without our company’s good standing and reputation in the market. As a sales representative, you need to do whatever you can to protect that reputation. Always put integrity first.

Export Controls - U.S. Embargoes Against Certain Countries

Situation:

I must send some data to our Germany office, but have not done this before. The file contains sensitive personal information. Is it OK to just email a large file? Are there any security issues?

Solution:

Yes, there are security issues any time that sensitive personal information is sent online, and this is especially true when personal data is sent across international lines. Personal data leaving Europe, Canada or Mexico is especially sensitive, but personal data sent out of the United States could also cause significant regulatory or contract problems. First, check with IT to see how to encrypt the data in transit and at rest. Second, check with HR or the General Counsel of your company about the specific rules relating to the countries affected by your data transmission, even if you are only giving information from one department to another within your company.

Situation:

An international customer refuses to provide full information about the product’s end-user. Can I proceed without this information?

Solution:

No. Explain to the customer that this information is needed to meet U.S. export control regulations. If you cannot obtain this information from the customer, contact your company’s General Counsel for assistance.

Situation:

I plan to take my laptop on an international business trip. The laptop contains technical data and software. Am I subject to trade control laws?

Solution:

Generally, company laptops carried for business use are exempt from documentation and customs requirements. However, certain countries require licensing of encryption software on laptops being carried into the country. Check with your company’s General Counsel for advice. In any event, whenever travelling with a company laptop, to prevent the theft of that laptop you must safeguard the laptop and take appropriate security measures so that it remains under your control.

Gifts and Gratuities

Situation:

My wife and I are invited by an important vendor to attend an elegant social event. Many business people from various companies are going to be there so it will be a great networking situation. Is it OK to accept this invitation? Is it OK that it includes my wife?

Solution:

You should check with your manager and possibly the purchasing department. The circumstances sound appropriate but your answer depends on the vendor’s status (Is he bidding?) and your position in regard to the vendor. The attendance of a spouse at an event may be perfectly apropos.

Situation:

You are replacing a well respected salesman who has recently retired. At dinner with one of his best customers, you tell the customer that you plan to continue providing the same high-quality service, and he responds by telling you that as long as you intend to continue the prior salesman’s special support activities everything will be fine. He tells you that the prior salesman paid for a trip for two each winter to a well-known spa. You know that this is against company policy but realize without this account, you won’t reach your sales quota for the year. What should you do?

Solution:

You should talk to your manager about the situation. Do not attempt to provide the “special support activities” on your own. Any gifts or gratuities made to customers on behalf of the company must be within our policy guidelines and must be approved.

Situation:

I was invited to a trade conference sponsored and paid for by one of our major suppliers. May I attend?

Solution:

If the trade conference has merit enough for you to attend, our company will pay for the expenses associated with your participation. You should not accept paid expenses from the supplier.

Situation:

As a member of a company project team, I worked hard to meet some tough project deadlines. As a thank you, the customer offered the use of his beach house to me and my family for one weekend next month. May I accept?

Solution:

No. Although the weekend has negligible actual cost to the giver, the value of the weekend exceeds the standards set by our company’s gift and entertainment policies.

Situation:

A vendor that often supplies our facility has invited a few people from our work group to play golf and have lunch. We will probably discuss next year’s business requirements while we are together. Is this OK?

Solution:

Outings such as this can help build relationships and help the vendor to better meet our company’s needs. You should discuss the outing with your supervisor first, but as long as the expenses are within the parameters of our company’s policies, it should be OK.

Integrity of Records and Financial Reports

Situation:

I am responsible for preparing the monthly production reports. Production had been above goal and business is thriving. However, three months ago the company installed a new production management software resulting in a downward turn of production figures. Your manager asks you to be "creative" when preparing next month's production report. You don't want to make him look bad but you don't want to cheat or provide information that is untrue. What should you do?

Solution:

Depending on the details, the request from your manager seems to be against company policy. Your manager may believe that the figures themselves do not take into account the transitional situation caused by the new software or he may be concerned about not making the production goals. You should report the true numbers and reflect the situation as it is. If there is a problem with the new software or other factors in the situation, report those also. If your manager insists on reporting falsely, report the situation through one of the company’s reporting resources.

Situation:

As part of the audit team for the company you encounter a problem in the payroll department. A large number of employees are being paid as independent contractors to avoid applicable payroll taxes. You know that the practice could be improper and possibly illegal, and you report it to your audit supervisor. He does not seem to be willing to do anything and tells you to ignore the practice and be a team player. Should I do more?

Solution:

It is your responsibility to report a potential illegal practice, even if it means going over the head of an uncooperative supervisor. Report the situation through one of the company’s reporting resources. The facts will be investigated to determine if the practice is indeed against company policy or illegal.

Situation:

You are conducting a performance appraisal for one of your marginal employees. You have asked your manager to sign the appraisal. She tells you that she cannot sign the appraisal unless the "almost achieves" rating is upgraded. She explains that this employee has done some special favors for her and needs to know that she is appreciated. You know that none of these activities were job related. You do not feel right about changing the appraisal to suit your manager’s needs. What do you do?

Solution:

Discuss with your manager your objections to changing the appraisal to suit her needs. If you don't get support from her, report this situation to HR or through one of the company’s other reporting resources.

Situation:

Our company overbilled a customer. The bill was reasonable so the customer paid it. This is good for our company’s bottom line and I think that it will never be discovered. Should I say anything?

Solution:

Point out the problem so that it can be corrected. The overbilling may be discovered by an audit—either our company’s or the customer’s. Even if there were no way that it would be discovered, the right thing to do is to rectify the mistake. The customer will appreciate our truthfulness and that is more valuable to the company in the long run.

No Retaliation

Situation:

I believe that my boss has been unfair and harsh in my yearly performance review. Is this harassment? Is this retaliation?

Solution:

An unfavorable review is not harassment, but you can discuss the review with your boss, upper management, or HR. An unfavorable review is not retaliation, but if you recently made a report to our EthicsLine, feel free to speak with HR to be sure that the poor performance review is not related to your report.

Situation:

I believe that if I report a wrongdoing, I will suffer retaliation. It might not be obvious or blatant, but I know my supervisor will single me out in some way that will affect my career. What should I do?

Solution:

You have an obligation as an employee to report anything that you are aware of that is against the law or our company polices. If you believe that retribution or retaliation is possible, use the anonymous EthicsLine to report your concern. If you have observed or experienced retaliation, contact your HR representative. If you only feel that there will be retaliation, examine your reasons closely, and seek help from any of the resources within our company.

Situation:

During an investigation, one of my co-workers retaliated against the person who made the complaint. If the person files retaliation charges, who may be held responsible for this behavior?

Solution:

The person who retaliated, his or her manager, and our company may all be held liable. All employees must understand our company’s non-retaliation policies. If there is a retaliation claim, both the manager and the retaliating employee may be subject to fines or disciplinary measures. If you are aware of possible retaliation, you should call HR, EthicsLine or the Office of Ethics and Compliance with the information that you know.

Situation:

I have received very good performance reviews and gladly have taken on more responsibilities. Many of my younger co-workers have been promoted but did not acquire any additional responsibilities. I discussed my promotion opportunities with my manager who informed me that he thinks I should be promoted but said he has been unsuccessful getting it approved by Human Resources. I filed an age discrimination complaint through our EthicsLine. If the investigations results in findings that there is no age discrimination, am I still protected from retaliation?

Solution:

Yes. Retaliation law protects employees who assert rights protected by law even when the employees are wrong about whether their rights were violated. So long as the employee has a good faith belief that the employer’s conduct is unlawful, an employee can challenge that conduct free from a threat of retaliation.

Political Activities and Contributions

Situation:

You want to send a letter to your government representative, via the company network, expressing your opinion about a legislative issue. Can you do this?

Solution:

You should not use company resources or company time to express your personal opinion on a legislative issue unless you have been specifically authorized to do so by an officer of the company, your company’s General Counsel, or RAI’s Government Relations Department.

Situation:

You volunteer for a local candidate for political office. May you use the company copy machine to copy flyers?

Solution:

You may not use any company resource to support a political candidate.

Situation:

I would like to write my congressperson about my opinions on the environment. I’m sure that I would receive a better response to my opinions if I used company letterhead in my correspondence. I am sure the company is interested in the environment. Is this ok?

Solution:

No. Our company is very interested in being a good citizen and all employees are encouraged to actively participate in all aspects of civic life including politics. However, employees may not represent or imply representation of the company in any way unless officially designated to do so.

Situation:

I want to run for local government. This is a part time, unpaid position. The past office holders have all had full time jobs separate from their elected responsibility, so it should not interfere with my responsibilities to our company. Is this OK?

Solution:

Our company encourages all employees to participate in civic and volunteer activities. In doing so, you must not use company time or resources, not neglect your company duties, and not represent or infer to represent the company in any way.

Situation:

I have been asked to give an endorsement of a candidate for local office in my official capacity with the company. What should I do?

Solution:

While the company supports employees who wish to participate in civic affairs, we must always keep our personal politics separate from our professional identities. We must all be sure that any endorsements we give are purely personal and that our company name is never used.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)

Situation:

A person who is a foreign national from the country where you do business represents our company in a business deal. Since the representative is a foreign national and not an employee, you believe his actions are not covered by the FCPA. Is this true?

Solution:

The FCPA can apply to any individual, firm or agent of a firm. The person in this example seems to be acting as an agent. Be sure all of his actions on your behalf and on behalf of our company are in line with provisions of the FCPA. Our company is responsible for the consequences of his actions.

Situation:

In a transaction with a commercial customer, my agent says that the payment of a bribe is necessary. Is this against the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?

Solution:

No, this is not covered by the FCPA. However, our company has policies against commercial bribery and commercial bribery is illegal under the UK Bribery Act and in many other countries. Therefore, you may not pay the bribe.

Situation:

My job involves contact with non-U.S. based companies and offices. Recently, we had a heated discussion about which regulations to follow, the U.S. laws or the local laws. I argued that U.S. law always took precedence. Was I right?

Solution:

Your company’s General Counsel is the best source of information about how laws and company policies apply to your job. In general, our company obeys all U.S. laws as well as local laws, and U.S. law takes precedent if local laws are less restrictive. Remember that our company values of honesty and integrity are equally important. Never do something that you perceive as wrong even if it is legal.

Situation:

While operating in an emerging market country, you find that local officials control the permit process and routinely expect “tokens of appreciation” for completing their work. Other companies hire local agents to represent them and obtain permits, with no questions asked. Can you hire local agents to take care of business -- no questions asked -- with local officials?

Solution:

No, you cannot turn a blind eye to the way the local agents operate in your company’s name. While under contract, these agents are subject to FCPA rules prohibiting bribery and other forms of corruption in foreign countries. The FCPA does (although the UK Bribery Act expressly does not) allow “facilitating payments” to be made to government officials in order to obtain business services in a timely manner. Discuss with your supervisor or your company’s General Counsel to determine whether it’s legal and advisable to pay the customary fees to local officials in the emerging market country.

Situation:

After approval by RAI’s General Counsel, you engage an agent to help you open up new markets in an Eastern European country. The agent tells you that to secure the contract you must give him the equivalent of a few hundred dollars which he will use to “make sure all the proper officials think highly of you.” He says it’s the way business is done in this country in particular. Can you make the payment?

Solution:

No. Contact your company’s General Counsel to disclose the agent’s request. A payment (or even the promise to pay) to a foreign official to improperly influence a purchasing decision violates the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and may violate that country’s laws which prohibit bribes.