26 September 2003

You've Been Indicted. The Most Feared Words in the Boardroom

boardmember.com Resource Center - : "You've Been Indicted. The Most Feared Words in the Boardroom
From Corporate Board Member - Resource Center

By Peter L. Higgins

Every Fortune caliber organization from financial services to health care has already implemented a pervasive compliance program to mitigate the risk of ending up with the SEC or US Attorney in the lobby.

The catalyst behind these initiatives is generated from the U.S. Sentencing Commission's Organizational Sentencing Guidelines. They allow for more lenient sentencing if an organization has evidence of an 'effective program to prevent and detect violations of law.'

The Guidelines contain criteria for establishing an 'effective compliance program.'

These include oversight by high level officers, effective communication to all employees, and reasonable steps to achieve compliance such as:

1. Systems for monitoring and auditing

2. Incident response and reporting

3. Consistent enforcement including disciplinary actions

Yet the corporate incivility continues. Why is it that we can't pick up the morning paper or listen to the news on the way to work without hearing about a new indictment of a top ranking officer?

Here lies the question many Board of Directors are scratching their heads about these days. How can we avoid these ethical and legal dilemmas and how can they be addressed without creating a state of fear and panic?

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