In an article published in the June issue of ACC Docket,
entitled "Playing the Cards You're Dealt", James Nortz raised the
interesting issue of the lack of company leadership to "create an ethical
vision, the moral courage to pursue that vision and the ability to effectively
communicate the vision to others." I think that most of us will recognize 'Tone
at the Top' as a key component of any successful compliance program. It is
certainly recognized by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in its best
practices for a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Compliance Program.
Nortz propounds that a "root cause" for many compliance failures is that
management is not fully committed to a strong ethical culture. He noted that
according to the "Ethics Resource Center's 2009 National Business Ethics
Survey, only 18 percent of US corporations have a strong ethical culture."
He posed the question of what can you do as a Law or
Compliance Department member to facilitate the creation, implementation and
sustainment of a strong ethical culture, where such initiative is not found in
the company leadership, and play with the weak compliance hand you may have
been initially dealt. He laid out four steps to think through this process.
Nortz ends by noting that taking on the challenge of
helping your leaders develop the skills necessary to build and sustain a strong
ethical culture is not an easy task. He believes that such "work requires
unrelenting determination, extraordinary shrewdness and guts." However, the
results can be well worth it. He has laid out several steps that you can incorporate
into your overall compliance strategy, whether or not you are seeking to
implement an initial compliance program or enhance an existing program. I would
recommend that you consider some or all of the steps that he has proposed and
to "play the cards you've been dealt as best you can."
Visit the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog,
hosted by Thomas Fox, for more commentary on FCPA compliance, indemnities and
other forms of risk management for a worldwide energy practice, tax issues
faced by multi-national US companies, insurance coverage issues and protection
of trade secrets.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2011
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