Effective Compliance Programs Look Beyond DOJ Guidance
Much ado has been made about the recent guidance on corporate ethics & compliance (E&C) programs issued by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ). The attention is justified. Starting with the Criminal Division’s Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs and continuing with the release of the Antitrust Division’s Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs in Criminal Antitrust Investigations, we now know more about the DoJ’s definition of “effectiveness” when it comes to E&C than ever before. Not surprisingly, industry conferences, webcasts, and articles are replete with analysis of what it all means for the private sector. This, too, is understandable, as history has shown that when these types of frameworks are released by enforcement, regulatory or legislative bodies, any new criteria heavily influence corporate practice.
All the buzz begs an important question. While following such guidance might seem like a net positive for organizations, could it actually be diverting focus away from developing the programs and protocols necessary to create truly transformational E&C programs that yield lasting change? It is the purpose of this article to demonstrate that the current level of emphasis on adherence to the DoJ guidance, and other regulatory standards like it, is well intended but flawed.