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Is anyone really surprised by the college admissions bribery scandal? Sure, it’s nice to think that academia is a bastion for the best and the brightest. But there’s a longstanding tradition where the family name—and perhaps an endowment—greases the wheels for less academically-inclined legacy students. And it’s not just admissions offices that face bribery and corruption risk . Just last year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced charges in a three-year FBI investigation into bribes paid to basketball coaches “ … to steer NBA-bound players toward sports agents, financial advisers and apparel companies.” Perhaps it’s time for colleges to embrace the risk management approaches used by the corporate world. The anti-bribery system established in ISO 37001 could be a good starting point, writes Worth MacMurray on FCPAblog.com.
How does ISO 37001 work?
When introducing the ISO 37001 anti-bribery standard in 2016, the International Organization for Standardization noted, “With over $1 trillion paid in bribes each year, the consequences are catastrophic, reducing quality of life, increasing poverty and eroding public trust.”
ISO 37001 was developed based on global anti-bribery best practices and designed to help organizations establish, implement, maintain and improve anti-bribery compliance programs. Moreover, the standard is quite flexible, making it appropriate from small to large businesses and non-governmental organizations—colleges included.
MacMurray suggests, “Certification publicly communicates a simple trust-rebuilding message: ‘consistent with the seriousness of the situation and our values, we took action -- we’ve implemented and become certified under the leading global anti-bribery management system: ISO 37001.’”
A robust approach to risk mitigation protects against more than bribery and corruption; it helps universities vet third-parties and monitor for emerging risks—from identifying potential supply chain disruption from a vendor bankruptcy to identifying a possible reputational threat through association with a donor. By seeing risks more clearly, universities can be more proactive in their responses.
Given the on-going media coverage of what the FBI has dubbed ‘Operation Varsity Blues,’ it’s unlikely the question of campus corruption is going away soon. Taking an aggressive stance on addressing bribery and corruption risk is one step universities can take to begin to regain trust. As MacMurray says, “As additional facts come to light—approximately 800 persons are reportedly involved and only around 50 have been identified to date—the value of a thorough, standards-based anti-bribery methodology applied to the college admissions process will only become more apparent.”
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