The Red Flag Group was out in force at the 15th annual SCCE Compliance & Ethics Institute (CEI) this past week in Chicago. This year’s event had its largest ever attendance, and it was a great demonstration of the growth of the corporate compliance profession. In his opening remarks, SCCE CEO Roy Snell announced that over 1,700 had registered for the event from well over 50 countries. Snell spoke about the growth of the organisation in the United States and across the globe. He spoke about the worldwide compliance certification programme that the SCCE has developed, at a cost of over US$4 million, which is bringing quality accreditation to the compliance profession. He also emphasised the dramatic growth of SCCE Academies, which the organisation hosts outside the United States.
This SCCE certification is a key indicia of compliance professionalism. The Red Flag Group is leading the way in this area by requiring certification of many employees. The Red Flag Group CEO Scott Lane was interviewed by SCCE representative Kortney Nordrum, for the organisation’s podcast Compliance Perspectives, on the Firm’s commitment to professionalism in compliance. Furthermore, a number of the Firm’s representatives sat the SCCE Certification Exam on the final day of the event.
As always, the CEI keynote speakers provided expert insight and touched on a wide range of topics. Harvard professor and author Francesca Gino spoke on her book entitled ‘Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan’. She talked about the three key influences that derail even the most rational decision-making and plans, and provided tips on how to watch for mission creep to keep your best laid plans on track. Michael Johnson, founder of Clear Law Institute, discussed interviewing techniques for internal investigations. His overriding theme was that you are not a prosecutor setting out to have a guilty party crack and admit all on the witness stand. Rather, you should view yourself as a journalist, and be there to facilitate the interviewee telling their story.
Many new compliance practitioners are joining the industry from other disciplines. Many individuals in the next generation of compliance professionals will be university trained compliance professionals. This means more than simply a course or two on regulations, such as the FCPA, export control or anti-money laundering laws, but a much broader skill set. This will enable a chief compliance officer or compliance practitioner to be more effective in making compliance drive businesses to do things the right way, as well as to do business more efficiently and, at the end of the day, more profitably.
Justice Department (DOJ) representative Bill Baer opened the morning’s keynote with remarks about what the DOJ considers to be meaningful cooperation that can lead to a significant reduction in financial penalties. Baer listed several specific factors that the DOJ looks for to determine a company’s cooperation. For every CCO, or even general counsel in the audience, it was solid information to put into practice ahead of a regulator investigation or, worse, enforcement action.
Another keynote was on the sobering topic of human trafficking and modern slavery with Bill Shepherd and Gwen Hassan. A former DOJ prosecutor, now in private practice, Shepherd walked the audience through the legal requirements and potential penalties. Hassan, a well-known corporate compliance professional, helped the audience understand how corporations can respond through establishing appropriate compliance programmes and mechanisms.
Human trafficking and modern slavery is not simply about women forced into the sex trade. Probably the most sobering fact presented by the two was that there are estimated to be almost 500,000 people working against their will in the United States alone, and some examples were detailed literally miles from the CEI conference site. The speakers suggested that companies review their third party operations for these red flags:
- Withheld documents or exit visas;
- Physical punishment, captive conditions, physical injuries to multiple people in one place;
- Unrestrained/inhumane working hours or conditions, managers in control;
- Indentured servitude or ‘repayment’ for travel to worksite;
- Incapacity to leave or change jobs;
- Movement of workers strictly controlled (e.g. picked up and dropped off each day by controller); and
- Child labour.
The final keynote was Kristy Grant-Hart, the author of ‘How to be a Wildly Effective Compliance Officer’. She was able to translate her fire and passion for the compliance profession into concrete action that a compliance professional can take back to his or her organisation. It was an inspiring final keynote to this great conference, as she discussed specific steps that a CCO can take, from a wide variety of disciplines, to help make businesses run better. Her talk encapsulated the evolution of the compliance profession, from someone inside a legal department or simply with legal training to using a much wider skill set, to help a company operate in a superior manner. This theme of turning compliance into a competitive advantage is reiterated by The Red Flag Group’s whitepapers, which were distributed throughout the event. Compliance professionals help an organisation to run not only more efficiently and in compliance with regulatory requirements, but also more profitably.
The challenge for America and the world’s corporations to be in compliance will only grow going forward. When something as benign as providing a bank debit card can form the basis of a US$185 million dollar regulatory fine, it demonstrates why a compliance professional needs to have a seat at the management table to help prevent such corporate disasters. Compliance with laws such as the FCPA will always be a part of the role of any CCO but, as risks expand and grow, the role of the compliance professional will need to expand along with the skill set to make it all work.
The Compliance & Ethics Awards dinner is always a highlight of the event and this year was no exception. Even with the first Presidential Debate scheduled for the same evening, the crowd was in high spirits for this year’s Award winners. This year’s award recipients included the Canadian Competition Commission, the United States Sentence Commission and The Red Flag Group’s own Compliance Ambassador Tom Fox.
A big part of any CEI is the meeting of old colleagues, making new acquaintances and being in the same venue with so many like-minded professionals. This year was no exception and one thing the team at The Red Flag Group brought to the event was not only its professionalism, but a physical presence in the vendor room and the facilitation of conversations to advance the compliance profession. The discussions in and around the Firm’s location were wide-ranging and led to the exchange of many ideas, the making of new connections, and the furthering of conference goals.
A key theme of the conference was the role of the compliance profession as protector of the business five years from now. Sales managers and the C-suite tend to focus on quarterly results, the latest product design, or the most current litigation against the company. Our job in compliance is to see the bigger picture and to protect the value of the company in the future. The compliance professional’s job is to protect the reputation and value of the business further down the line by ensuring that the business does the right thing today and always.
The 2016 SCCE Compliance & Ethics Institute is now in the books. The SCCE anticipates growth of 10 percent for next year’s event, which will be held in Las Vegas. The Firm hopes that you will plan to join us in our continued support of the most well-attended compliance conference across the globe.