Features

Catherine Ann Muldoon – BDP International

Ethics, compliance and transparency keep BDP moving

For more than 200 years, Philadelphia has been nicknamed the City of Brotherly Love, derived from the Ancient Greek words philos and adelphós.

At BDP International, a privately owned global logistics provider and supply chain management company, Catherine Ann Muldoon has spent the last 18 years ensuring there’s plenty of love for her sisters in the business.

“We have our own women’s group at BDP and there are three C-level female executives in our six-person C-level group of department leaders,” says Muldoon, BDP’s chief legal officer. “That is unheard of in Philadelphia businesses, and it’s especially uncommon in the logistics industry.”

In her time with the company, Muldoon, a corporate M&A lawyer by trade, has supported approximately 45 acquisitions, including of companies in Thailand, France, the UK, Germany, Belgium, Vietnam, Brazil, Chile and Italy. She recently launched a new automated contract management system “creating full visibility” of every negotiated aspect of BDP contracts. But she is most proud of her work driving and streamlining ethics and compliance.

“With these advances, our programs around anti-corruption, economic sanctions and import-export compliance support our business effectively and most efficiently,” she says.

Being ethical and compliant

BDP didn’t have a formal ethics or legal compliance program when Muldoon arrived as general counsel in 2002, and she knew that to grow the business internationally, she’d have to develop a robust program to deal with cross-border rules and regulations. The breadth of the legal department has grown during her tenure, and now she’s responsible for legal, risk management, corporate compliance and ethics.

As head of the company’s legal department, Muldoon gives regular presentations, ensuring employees realize how important compliance is to their jobs and to the company, she explains. Her philosophy is one of collaboration, and she notes that these programs cannot take hold inside a business where the culture does not support it, she adds.

“The only way I see to get there is by building the right relationships with each of the departments and driving a consistent and uniform message of zero tolerance,” Muldoon says.

Under recent Department of Justice guidance, global companies have the burden of proving they are compliant. To that end, BDP must be able to show that it isn’t engaging in risk behaviors involving dangerous goods, payment practices, and human rights or trafficking violations.

“We cannot do this alone,” Muldoon says. “We need to arm our employees with the tools to audit, monitor and ultimately improve our practices.”

Automation is great and makes BDP’s processes around the world more efficient, but it doesn’t automatically create a compliant organization, according to Muldoon. Most of the risk comes from employees, and that’s where the evaluation has to come from. BDP has a strong whistleblower policy, she says, and she aspires to creating a company culture when an employee can identify themselves as a risk—without ramification—even if they’re not sure what they’ve done.

“Then someone can call the legal department and ask if it’s normal, ethical or compliant,” she says.

A new way to manage contracts

The legal department is the repository for all the important documents for BDP’s business—every email the company receives is stored within the department’s document management system.

Muldoon says clients remain with BDP for years; Dupont has been with the company since the 1980s, so the evolution of that business-to-client relationship by reviewing contracts and contested clauses is important to BDP officials. With the new contract management system, employees can do their own research. The legal team is an available resource, too.

“This has given us a level of visibility that we didn’t have before as a department,” she says. “We’re really an IT company, and we’re moving around data, generating reports and managing risk for our clients.”

The project was completed in 2020, and Muldoon and her team are working on add-ons connected to DocuSign. When Muldoon started 18 years ago, the legal department was excited to upload paper contracts and link them through a database. Now, the ability to sign documents remotely and access contracts from anywhere in the world has given the legal team a renewed sense of purpose.

“The good news is our company grew so fast,” she adds. “The bad news is our company grew so fast.”

The journey

Muldoon got a degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University and, while working for BDP, decided to take the LSATs with a group of friends. She got the highest score of the group and started to give serious consideration to going to law school.

“I figured it was a way to combine my interest in working in international business and my interest in the law,” says Muldoon, who graduated from the Seton Hall School of Law in 1994.

She spent five years as a litigator at Florio & Perrucci in New Jersey, then taught at Montclair State University for two years. Muldoon then became the legal counsel and director for the American Conference Institute for almost two years, where she managed all litigation and drafted contracts, among other legal work.

“I always wanted to be an M&A lawyer and wanted to do corporate work, which is how my career started,” Muldoon recalls. “We took whatever business came in the door, and all of the employment matters I researched prepared me for the generalist role of an in-house lawyer.”

Not easily satisfied, in addition to her day job, Muldoon has been an adjunct professor at Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law since 2015.

She came to BDP as general counsel in 2002 and hasn’t looked back.

“I definitely felt like BDP was the right place in terms of my professional growth,” Muldoon says.

Published on: February 10, 2021

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