Independent Advisory Group to Review Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations

May 10, 2011

Initiative Marks 20 Years since the Guidelines were Implemented 

ARLINGTON, VA – Marking 20 years since the enactment of landmark federal sentencing guidelines to spur development of strong organizational compliance/ethics programs, the Ethics Resource Center (ERC) is creating a special panel to assess the impact of those Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations (FSGO) and to make recommendations regarding credit for serious compliance/ethics efforts. 
Recommendations emerging from ERC’s new “20th Anniversary Advisory Group” will go not only to the US Sentencing Commission but also to the larger federal enforcement community as all parties look to bolster creation of ethics safeguards in companies.
The ERC Advisory Group will be co-chaired by ERC President Patricia Harned and Win Swenson, a partner in the firm Compliance Systems Legal Group, who served as Deputy General Counsel at the Sentencing Commission from 1990-1996. The distinguished 19 member panel includes federal judges; former Justice Department, Sentencing Commission and Congressional officials; current and former general counsel; senior in-house compliance practitioners; and professors of law. The panel will release a public report in November 2011.  
The FSGO were enacted by Congress in November 1991 to govern the sentencing of organizations convicted of federal crimes. The FSGO were intended by the US Sentencing Commission to help “prevent and detect organizational wrongdoing.” Under the FSGO, organizations with compliance/ethics programs meeting defined standards earn credit toward reduced penalties if employees engage in wrongdoing – but organizations with substandard programs receive far tougher penalties. The FSGO’s “carrot and stick” provides incentives for organizations to devote more resources to compliance/ethics and accord a high priority to the development of an ethical culture.
Looking ahead, the Advisory Group will consider questions that include:
  • Has the private sector responded to the “carrot and stick” incentives in the FSGO by adopting meaningful compliance/ethics programs?
  • Can the FSGO’s definition of an “effective” compliance/ethics program be improved?
  • Is the FSGO’s credit for effective compliance/ethics programs actually being applied in significant corporate cases?
  • Do other enforcement entities, such as the Department of Justice, endorse credit for corporate compliance/ethics efforts, and what happens in actual cases?
  • How can an approach for assessing and crediting compliance/ethics programs be more uniformly and effectively applied across other areas of enforcement?
Four members of the ERC Advisory Group also served on an Advisory Group convened by the Sentencing Commission in 2003 to recommend changes to the FSGO compliance/ethics framework.  

The full membership of the ERC 20th Anniversary Advisory Group is listed below.

Patricia Harned, President, Ethics Resource Center
Win Swenson, Partner, Compliance Systems Legal Group, former Deputy General Counsel, U.S. Sentencing Commission

Advisory Group Members (in alphabetical order):

Scott Avelino, Principal, Compliance Systems Legal Group

Jeff Benjamin, Vice President, Chair, Ethics & Compliance Committee, Novartis Corporation

Judge Ruben Castillo, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois; former Member, U.S. Sentencing Commission

Paul Fiorelli, Professor, Legal Studies, Xavier University

Scott Harshbarger, Senior Counsel, Proskauer; former Massachusetts Attorney General

Ben Heineman, Jr., Senior fellow at Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School; former S.V.P. for Law and Public Affairs, General Electric

Nancy Higgins, Vice President & Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, Bechtel Corporation

Judge Sven Holmes, Vice Chairman - Legal Risk & Regulatory and Chief Legal Officer, KPMG; former U.S. District Judge

**Michael Horowitz, Partner, Cadawaler, Wickersham & Taft, LLP; formerly Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief of Staff in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice

Thurgood Marshall, Jr., Partner, Bingham McCutcheon, LLP; formerly Assistant to the President of the United States and Secretary to the Cabinet

Paul McNulty, Partner, Baker & McKenzie, LLP; former Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

Judge Diana Murphy, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit; formerly Chair, U.S. Sentencing Commission

Joseph E. Murphy, Partner and Vice Chairman of Integrity Interactive Corporation, Compliance Systems Legal Group

Julie O'Sullivan, Associate Dean, J.D. Program; Professor of Law, Georgetown University

Michael Oxley, Partner, Baker Hostetler; formerly Member of Congress (R-OH)

Susan Ponce, Senior Vice President, Special Assistant to the General Counsel, Halliburton Co.

Alexandra Rebay, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, Verizon; formerly Assistant United States Attorney, Southern District of New York

Dan Roach, Vice President, Compliance and Audit, Catholic Healthcare West

Charles Senatore, Head of Corporate Compliance, Fidelity Investments; former Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission's Southeast Region

Larry Thompson, Retired General Counsel, Pepsico, Inc.; former Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

**Mr. Horowitz has taken part in previous Advisory Group meetings, but is now on leave from the Group as he is considered by the U.S. Senate for the Justice Department's Inspector General post.


The Ethics Resource Center (ERC) is a private, nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and the advancement of high ethical standards and practices in public and private institutions. To learn more about ERC, visit