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Take Two: Mike Scher busts more compliance myths

In the prior post, I talked about a few myths that started during the Compliance 1.0 era and are now holding back the transition to Compliance 2.0.

What is Compliance 2.0? It’s compliance officers untethered from the general counsel, working directly with C-Suiters, and participating in many of the company’s most important business decisions.

Last time we discussed three outdated and dangerous myths about pay for compliance officers, their workloads, and their importance and effectiveness.

Let’s turn now to a few other myths about compliance officers that have no place in our Compliance 2.0 world.

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Myth Number Four: The chief compliance officer has to be a lawyer from the legal department. Lawyers can be great compliance officers. They have analytical minds and understand where risks lurk. But they aren’t the only ones. Auditors are skilled at conducting factual investigations and analyzing the results. There are men and women in the finance department who see the big picture and can make a smooth transition to compliance. HR jobs are tough — a great training ground for future compliance officers. Marketing and sales folks understand the enormous value of a company’s clean reputation. If they can leave behind their old role, there’s no reason they can’t “sell” compliance internally.

Myth Number Five: Compliance is ultimately a political battleground where compliance officers can’t win. That’s a tempting thought, given the profit-motive, but it’s wrong. Compliance is really about the welfare of the entire company and all of its stakeholders. Compliance officers worth their salt aren’t fighting for turf, they’re fighting to protect their fellow employees, the shareholders, the suppliers, the lenders, and of course the customers. They’re also fighting for something bigger — the well being of the company’s wider community. I’ve asked before, how far should compliance go?  Compliance 2.0 is still working on the answer to that question. But we know compliance has a role much wider than mere turf battles on the executive floor.

Myth Number Six: Everything you need to know about compliance is contained in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Almost twenty-five years have passed since the U.S. Sentencing Commission published the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations and their compliance and ethics program standards. Even after two and a half decades, I’m still excited when I read Chapter 8 of the Sentencing Guidelines — Sentencing of Organizations. If there’s a fountainhead of compliance and ethics programs, this is it.

But let’s not stop there.

The 2012 DOJ/SEC Resource Guide is an amazing compliance resource. The dozens of deferred prosecution agreements in FCPA enforcement (available from the DOJ here) are rich sources for compliance professionals. 

The Resource Guide itself cites other sources, including the OECD’s 2009 Anti-Bribery Recommendation and its Annex II, Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics, and Compliance, published in February 2010; Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation—Anti-Corruption Code of Conduct for Business; International Chamber of Commerce—ICC Rules on Combating Corruption; Transparency International—Business Principles for Countering Bribery; United Nations Global Compact—The Ten Principles; World Bank—Integrity Compliance Guidelines; and World Economic Forum—Partnering Against Corruption–Principles for Countering Bribery.

They’re all available from this post on the FCPA Blog.

Chapter 8 of the Sentencing Guidelines was and still is truly farsighted and inspiring. It’s a great place to start. But the compliance world has grown during the past 25 years, and Compliance 2.0 professionals now enjoy a world of resources.

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I’m out of space again. I’ll conclude next time with a few more Compliance 1.0 myths that need to be kicked to the curb so we can all move together into our exciting Compliance 2.0 future.


Michael Scher is a senior editor of the FCPA Blog. He has over three decades of experience as a senior compliance officer and attorney for international transactions. He can be contacted here.

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