Companies Must Benchmark Compliance Programs

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By Yin Wilczek

April 27 — In the current environment, compliance program monitoring and benchmarking is essential, panelists at a conference said April 27.

Companies risk reputational and financial harm if they fail to measure and track the effectiveness of their compliance programs, said Stephen Martin, managing director of Baker & McKenzie Compliance Consulting LLC. He added that senior executives and compliance practitioners risk personal liability.

Moreover, regulators—including the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission—are emphasizing the importance of compliance programs, Martin said. In fact, he noted, the DOJ has suggested in recent guidance that companies have their programs independently reviewed.

Who's the Audience?

To audit and benchmark their programs, compliance officers should first identify their audience—whether it be the government or others—and what their programs seek to do, said Aryeh Friedman, vice president and associate general counsel at Dun & Bradstreet.

Friedman, Martin and Charlotte Young, chief ethics and compliance officer for the Nature Conservancy, spoke at the Association of Corporate Counsel's compliance education summit in New Orleans.

Despite the importance of corporate compliance, a recent ACC survey found that only 41 percent of organizations periodically review and benchmark their compliance programs.

Young noted that benchmarking can be one of the most challenging tasks for the compliance industry. One tool she recommended is periodically surveying employees on the corporate culture. “A culture survey is when it could all come together,” by letting employees tell you whether the program is effective, she said.

To evaluate their programs, compliance officers first must scope out what falls within compliance, such as anti-corruption or export controls, then tie that to goals they set, Friedman said.

Nature Conservancy

Young said that her department at the Nature Conservancy analyzes and reviews intranet communications to measure whether employees are engaging with the company. Young said she also analyzes how employees are accessing corporate policies and procedures, measuring usage to find if there are important trends. In the area of training, Young said she issues post-training surveys to measure what employees have learned.

Young also noted that the company has an Ethics File wherein it releases scrubbed summaries of its ethics investigations, which has proved very popular with employees.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yin Wilczek in New Orleans at ywilczek@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan Tuck at rtuck@bna.com