A Day In the Life: Suzanne Folsom of Academi

Corruption Currents

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Suzanne Folsom
  • February 20, 2013, 9:59 AM


A Day In the Life: Suzanne Folsom of Academi


Day In the Life is an occasional series in Corruption Currents in which a compliance officer describes a day at work.

Suzanne Folsom was hired as Academi’s general counsel and chief compliance officer in 2011. The training and security services company, which was formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide and later Xe Services, has faced years of legal and compliance issues.

This account is the author’s. It has been edited for style and grammar.

It’s 5:45 A.M. and scores of pressing e-mails have come in during the late evening and early morning hours.  As the general counsel and chief compliance officer for Academi LLC, I am in constant demand from the moment I wake up. This morning, that happens to be in a hotel room near Academi’s training facility in Moyock, N.C. I respond to the most urgent messages by e-mail or phone and assign the remainder to team members.

There is a request from Business Development to move forward on business with a potential partner and another request from Academi’s programs and procurement departments on the status of an export license application for personal protective equipment that would be shipped overseas in support of a U.S. government contract.  I also need to approve retention of counsel engaged by the company overseas in order to obtain appropriate business licenses for Academi to stand up a potential new business venture. And I have to review the schedule for today’s coming audit by a government customer who will be reviewing, among other things, the firearms training provided to personnel deploying overseas to programs located in high-risk, high-threat areas.

The Legal, Regulatory, and Compliance team speak each morning to go through responses on the overnight e-mail traffic. Victoria McKenney, director, Regulatory and Compliance and associate general counsel, briefs the team on the due diligence review findings of the potential partnership and any resulting anti-corruption “red flags.” Robert Garretson, director of export compliance, briefs the team on the export control issues that need to be resolved before personal protective equipment can be shipped overseas.

Due to the nature of Academi’s business, the export compliance function is particularly crucial and Garretson and his team must ensure that movement of any and all export-controlled items must meet both U.S. and host country laws.  Deputy General Counsel Greg Belanger discusses the intricate web of legal and regulatory issues involved in securing international business licenses.

By 11:00 A.M. I head to a meeting with Academi Chief Executive Ted Wright and other senior leadership to discuss a variety of operational and business development issues, any of which could trigger compliance or governance considerations.

After the meeting, I make time for a quick lunch in Academi’s cafeteria, which is known as “Chow Hall” and is interspersed with employees and military, law enforcement and commercial “students” who are participating in one of any number of driving, firearms, or other training classes hosted by Academi.

At 1:00 P.M., I am back at my desk for a conference call with the co-chairs of the Governance Committee of the Board of Directors, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and former White House Counsel Jack Quinn. Today, we discuss a few key issues, including the results of an operational risk assessment that we concluded with the assistance of an independent third party as well as the latest code of conduct training issued on our new learning management system.

Between putting out the sporadic brush fire, I join a call with fellow members of Business and Social Responsibility’s Human Rights working group and respond to a request to speak at a coming anti-corruption conference in Dubai on building a “best practices” global compliance program.

It is 6 P.M., and a last-minute conference call has been scheduled to discuss some possible resolutions to issues with a major client that has brought unannounced VIPs to the Moyock campus for a quick tour.  Rob Garretson and Academi’s facility security officer are on hand to spot and discuss possible export compliance and other security considerations. Subsequently, a program manager drops by to discuss today’s audit, including a lively discussion regarding the difference between rules of engagement and rules for use of force. The audit was successful, and I send a congratulatory e-mail to Academi personnel, and notify senior management of the results.

It’s been a long day, filled with both challenges and successes. And, there is much more to do tomorrow.

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