Category: Board of Directors

DOJ Revises its Guidance on the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs

Without any fanfare, the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division has once again revised its Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (“ECCP”).  The ECCP  remains  organized around three overarching questions that prosecutors ask when evaluating compliance programs, with some revisions, which are in bold text below:

Is the corporation’s compliance program well designed?
Is the program being applied earnestly and in good faith? In other words, is the program being implemented adequately resourced and empowered to function effectively?
Does the corporation’s compliance program work in practice?

While most of the document is identical to the 2019 Guidance, there are subtle and noticeable revisions.  The revisions appear to be designed to help provide additional clarity when answering the above three questions. 

Fraud Pentagon – Enhancements to the Three Conditions Under Which Fraud May Occur

Today’s fraudster is clever and operates in an environment ripe for criminal activity. Economic unrest is making it easier for employees to find ways to set fraud in motion – and a new breed of offenders is finding cunning ways to do so. After more than 60 years, the classic fraud triangle of three elements or events that motivate an employee to cross the line has morphed into the Fraud Pentagon.

Company boards and senior management must take an offensive stance against the five conditions that precipitate fraud with a clear plan that limits the opportunity for fraud and minimizes the impact when fraud does occur.

Tone from the top: Leadership’s challenge during a crisis

Leaders must find ways to engage with their people to motivate them, and this becomes increasingly important during uncertain or trying times. If done correctly, talking can be incredibly powerful. It can help relieve anxiety and help people find the strength they didn’t know was in them. Studies have shown that talking shuts down the brain’s fear center.

As Dr. Judson A. Brewer stated in a recent New York Times article, “Anxiety is a strange beast. As a psychiatrist, I have learned that anxiety and its close cousin, panic, are both born from fear.”

Fear and anxiety can be debilitating. Without proper communication in a crisis, it’s easy for people to spin and spread stories of fear, creating social contagion. To balance this tendency, in a crisis, leaders need to take their “tone from the top” to the next level.

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Whistleblowers: Tipsters not trusting the system? Here’s how to win them back

Whistleblowers: Tipsters not trusting the system? Here’s how to win them back.

Anonymous hotlines and tip-reporting structures are useless, of course, if informants don’t trust them. Employees won’t blow the whistle if they fear reprisals. So, their concerns often don’t enter case-management systems and frauds continue. Here’s how to earn back their trust, take them seriously and transform raw tips into valuable fraud examinations.

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Whistleblowers: A Fraud Triage System

As the use of whistleblower programs continues to grow, many organizations find themselves struggling to manage burgeoning caseloads. As a result, serious fraud investigations can be delayed (with mounting losses) while less consequential complaints are being investigated. The lack of a timely, systematic and repeatable process for evaluating and prioritizing whistleblower tips that contain allegations of ethical breaches can also expose an organization to increased regulatory risk.

While there is no single, “right” method for following up on whistleblower complaints, the most effective approaches often resemble the medical triage programs that hospitals and first responders use to allocate limited resources during emergencies, or a crisis situation.

Here are some useful guidelines for designing and implementing a fraud triage system.

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Board Overconfidence: An Often Unrecognized Risk

Directors on corporate boards are – almost by definition – men and women who are accomplished and successful. So it is only natural that most board members also are highly self-assured and confident in their judgment and abilities.

When that self-confidence is misplaced or overstated, however, the consequences can be costly. This is particularly true when overconfidence causes board members to underestimate or overlook the risks associated with fraud or management incompetence. Moreover, when board overconfidence is compounded by management overconfidence, the risks can multiply quickly.

Once the dangers of overconfidence are understood and appreciated, board and management teams alike can begin taking proactive steps to mitigate the risks. Knowing the warning signs of board overconfidence is an essential first step.

The Role of the Board of Directors in Compliance Oversight

Under the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines, in order to receive credit for having an effective compliance program, and thereby reduce the fines imposed on the organization, a Board of Directors must be “knowledgeable about the content and operation of the compliance and ethics program,” and must “exercise reasonable oversight with respect to the implementation and effectiveness of the compliance and ethics program.” In addition, in criminal actions against a business organization, including the FCPA, the DOJ’s Justice Manual instructs prosecutors to ask and answer several questions, including: 1) Do the Directors exercise independent review of the company’s compliance program? and 2) Are Directors provided timely and accurate information sufficient to enable the exercise of independent judgment?

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The Compliance Shift – Now for Tomorrow!

Where is compliance headed in the 2020’s? Certainly, technological solutions will be a big part of the future of compliance programs and controls. Compliance is rapidly emerging and being viewed as a critical business process. Moving away from the days in which it was driven by legalese and where lawyers are responsible for crafting compliance policies and procedures.  These advances provide opportunity for innovation, and enable compliance to recede from being viewed as a cost center led by the “head of business denial”, to being viewed as value added function to the business. Simply put, a more effective compliance program contributes to more efficient business processes, which leads to greater profitability.

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COVID-19 – Coronavirus: Crisis Management, Business Continuity, Fraud, and More!

Crisis Management: Some of the biggest mistakes made when handling a crisis are not dealing with the problem head-on, thoughtless or insincere comments, lack of communication with stakeholders, unprepared spokespeople, getting defensive after receiving backlash, or, sitting back and letting the problem grow. Domino’s, Sony, Samsung, BP, United Airlines, Equifax, KFC, are all good examples of companies who stumbled with crisis management. Companies should study these crises and learn from the mistakes!

In addition, fraud, compliance, and integrity risks may change. A crisis situation can and often does increase the pressure on senior management and of course salespeople to meet their sales targets! Deviant behavior is easily justified.

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Bribery Schemes and Their Compliance Responses

This writing will highlight some of the more unusual bribery schemes described in 2019 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions and also consider their impact on compliance programs, what they mean for the compliance professional and how the government could potentially use these cases to require more effective compliance programs going forward.
Fraudsters are always looking for loopholes and weak spots to exploit. The same is true for those engaged in bribery and corruption. The role of every compliance professional is to prevent, detect and remediate. By following some of the approaches I have outlined, you can move towards more robust detection.

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Fraud Tip Friday: Lessons From Recent FCPA Enforcement Actions

The United States government’s fiscal year ended on September 30, 2019. Just as in the business world, where many companies try and clear out any unexecuted deals or open contracts, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) cleared out three outstanding Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions. The three enforcement actions involved Quad/Graphics Inc., a Wisconsin-based digital and print marketing provider, and its Peruvian subsidiary, Quad/Graphics Peru S.A.; Barclays PLC; and a Canadian clean fuel company Westport Fuels Systems, Inc. and its former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Nancy Gougarty of Leesville, South Carolina. The terms of each settlement agreement provide a different lesson for compliance practitioners.

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Speaking and Training on Fraud, Compliance, Ethics, and More…

Welcome to my site. I have spoken and been the keynote speaker for many conferences, including the ABA, ACC, ACFE, IIA, and IMA to name a few. I have designed customized training for the board, senior leadership, legal, compliance, internal audit, and others for some of the world’s largest organizations.

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Reputation Risk Management Doesn’t Have a Start or End Date!

How can we protect our brand? What are we doing to protect our brand? Questions all board members should be constantly asking.  Reputational risks can damage the most well-crafted business strategies and is a growing challenge that companies around the world are still learning how to manage.

By definition, reputational risk refers to the potential for negative publicity, public perception, or uncontrollable events to adversely impact a company’s reputation, thereby affecting its revenue.

Board directors covet their company’s reputation because it’s their most valuable asset. A study by Deloitte and Forbes affirmed this conviction, but should not surprise anyone.  Senior-level executives also agreed that their company’s reputation presented the greatest risk to the company’s ability to achieve business strategies.

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Skepticism – A Key Tool in the Fight Against Fraud

“Trust but verify” could be a downright dangerous approach when applied to audit procedures in particular. A much better slogan for fraud deterrence would be, “Trust is a professional hazard.”

The implication is that because financial management plays a leading role in detecting financial fraud, it is incumbent on executives – not just auditors – to exercise appropriate levels of professional skepticism. Board members and particularly audit committee members also must take care to exercise a skeptical approach to financial reports and supporting information.

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