Compliance: Moving Off Dead Center

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mary Shaddock Jones

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The scenario is simple – you work for a company with international operations.   You have read hundreds of articles touting the necessity of putting in a compliance program. 

Your boss walks in and says, “How is that compliance program coming along?”  You silently think to yourself, “I need a clone to get that project started – much less finished.”  However, you smile and answer “I have it at the top of my to-do list.”

You really do need to have this task at the top of your “to-do list”. Having a compliance program isn’t optional.  It isn’t a “good to have” program.  It is a critical and necessary component to the ongoing financial success of the company you work for. When you start with this premise in mind, the next question is – “do I have the time or expertise to implement a compliance program?” 

Let’s be honest, most corporate professionals in today’s world already have too much on their plate as it is.  There isn’t the time and quite honestly, you probably don’t have the required experience or expertise, to properly implement a compliance program.

So what do you do?  First of all, there are people who can assist you in the process.  Is it expensive?  That is a relative question isn’t it? For instance, if your company suspects that a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act may have occurred and you do not have a viable comprehensive compliance program to show the Department of Justice – your company gets no credit and you need to start counting out the millions of dollars that your company will pay in fines, penalties, and/or in outside attorney’s fees.

Consider this – what does your company budget for international air travel – simply to transport a person from point A to point B?  If you are like most international companies, I suspect the answer is at least a million dollars.  How do you stand in front of the Department of Justice and explain that you are willing to spend a million dollars on airfare but not $50- $100,000 to implement a compliance program?  

Obviously, the cost of implementing a compliance program will vary from company to company.  However, it isn’t expensive enough to find yourself, your boss or your CEO in front of the Department of Justice explaining why they would spend money on business class air travel, paper clips, promotional shirts or hats, but not on a compliance program. Trust me, you don’t want to be in that position.

So what do you need to do to move off dead center? Where do you find someone who you can trust, who has time and expertise to work with you and your company to implement a compliance program?  Make no mistake about it, this is a serious question.  Why? 

Because there are no cookie cutter compliance programs that will likely be acceptable to the Department of Justice.  You know more about your company than any outside consultant will ever know.  You must partner with them to get the project done.  So make sure you like the person you chose!  This person isn’t going to pop in and out in a week. 

This person will talk to you, to your board, to executive management, and hopefully ultimately to the company workforce. The implementation of a compliance program is a process that occurs over several months.  As a result, you want to work with someone who has people skills, communication skills, and expertise in compliance to partner with you in implementing the compliance program.

Where do you find this person?  If you are reading this blog- then you know that there are a variety of sources for this type information – Tom Fox, Michael Volkov, Professor Michael  Koehler and me all either assist companies with compliance programs or know someone who does.  Call us or email us.  Those of us who do this for a living are passionate about what we do.

I love getting to know my clients and their business and seeing the transformation from “how is the compliance program coming along” to the day  the Chief Executive Officer announces the  establishment of the company  compliance program  and the smile on your face when you take a deep breath and say “We did it”.

Don’t stay in on dead center – pick up the phone or click on your mouse and let us help you.  That’s our job.  That’s our passion.

Mary Shaddock Jones, Attorney at Law and former Assistant General Counsel and Director of Compliance at Global Industries, Ltd. can be reached via email at  msjones@msjllc.com or via phone at 337-515-8527 .

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication.

Cross-posted from Tom Fox Law

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