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Mixed reviews for social media from compliance pros

Social media can be used to help disseminate information about a compliance program and to promote the program’s virtues. But some think using social media for anything related to compliance it still too risky. The FCPA Blog reached out to several experts for their insights.

Tim Mazur, chief operating officer of the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association, said social media tools are effective in showing that a program has been evaluated by an independent source, using ethics and compliance (E&C) metrics.

“Compliance officers can show they have a robust program with data from E&C metrics. There are tools — some for free — that COs can use to benchmark the effectiveness of their program against others. Evidence like this will appeal to businesspeople who want proof that a program is effective,” Mazur said.

These tools encourage dialogue-driven, real-time discussions, he said, that can help compliance and ethics professionals answer questions, alleviate concerns and clear up misconceptions.

Still, some features of social media make compliance professionals reluctant to use them.

“Using social media tools to promote the compliance program is not for me–at least not so far,” said Philip Thomas, head of legal and compliance at a Hong Kong-based asset manager.

“We make our materials available via the company intranet,” Thomas said, “and use software tools to monitor trade compliance. But I spread the message about our program in a relatively old-fashioned way: in-person. There’s no substitute I’m aware of for having the CCO there, in the flesh, establishing a physical presence in various locations, answering questions.”

Roy Snell of the Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics said he would encourage compliance professionals to use social media to access the best practices that have benefited other companies.

“It is a good search engine to get current information that could improve a compliance department’s effectiveness,” he said.

In the FCPA context, Snell pointed out that the DOJ and SEC decided not to prosecute Morgan Stanley for an employee’s corrupt conduct in China, partly because the company could show through emails that the employee was reminded of the rules many times. The employee, Garth Peterson, had been trained on the FCPA seven times during the time of the fraud and reminded of the rules at least 35 times by his employer.

“Whether you’re using email, intranet, or social media,” Snell said, “they are all important means for showing your commitment to compliance throughout the organization.”


Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog. She can be reached here.

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