Get Out Of The Ivory Tower – Using Internal Corporate Resources To Facilitate The Compliance Function

by Thomas Fox
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The second day of Hanson Wade Oil and Gas Supply Chain Compliance conference in Houston packed as much solid information into it as did the first day. One of the sessions dealt with utilizing other corporate functions to assist a compliance department in implementing or enhancing a compliance program. There are many resources which currently exist inside your organization and if you are in the position where you must use internal rather than external resources, this post will detail some of the functions which you may be able to call upon inside your organization.

You should start with a basic approach which the speaker termed “Get Out of the Ivory Tower”. He explained that the compliance department must obtain realistic input from geographies, cultures, business units and corporate functions within the company. As he rather succinctly put it to the audience “A procedure which may work in Texas may not work in Indonesia.” He also counseled to train in local languages. This may mean more than translating your talk into one language. He gave the example of his training in Spain where he had dual translations going, from English into Spanish and Catalan.

Part of this translation issue led to his next point, which was not to believe your own story or even worse, your own propaganda. Simply because a Country Manager says something is true means does not mean that it is true. Internal controls, monitoring and auditing are important to test that you are actually doing compliance rather than simply saying you are in compliance.

In determining what other departments might be able to assist the compliance function, the speaker suggested that you should start with three inquiries. They were:

  1. What can yours do? This is the initial assessment that you need to make about what your compliance department can do. What are your resources and budget? Start with this question.
  2. What can theirs do? In looking around your company, next ask this question. What are the functions of the departments? Are there things that they are currently doing which can supplement the compliance function? Are there functions in that department’s core function which can assist the company in the doing of compliance?
  3. How many employees does each of you have? An obvious concern is the number of employees that are available to assist the compliance function.

What are some of the other corporate functions that might assist the compliance department going forward? An obvious starting place is Human Resources (HR). The speaker listed several areas in which HR can bring expertise and, in my experience, enthusiasm to the compliance function. Some of the reasons include the fact that HR is physically located at or touch every site in the company, globally. HR is generally seen as more approachable than many other organizations in a company, unfortunately including compliance. A person’s first touch point with a company is often HR in the interview process. If not in the interview process, it is certainly true after a hire is made. Use this approachability.

Obviously, HR has several key areas of expertise, such as in discrimination and harassment. But beyond this expertise, HR also has direct accountability for these areas. It does not take a very long or large step to expand this expertise into assistance for compliance. HR often is on the front line for hotline intake and responses. These initial responses may include triage of the compliant and investigations. With some additional training, you can create a supplemental investigation team for the compliance department.

Clearly HR puts on training. By ‘training the trainers’ on compliance you may well create an additional training force for your compliance department. HR can also give compliance advice on the style and tone of training. This is where the things that might work and even be legally mandated in Texas may not work in other areas of the globe; advice can be of great assistance. But more than just putting on the training, HR often maintains employee records of training certifications, certifications to your company’s Code of Conduct and compliance requirements. This can be the document repository for the Document, Document Document portion of your compliance program.

Internal Audit is another function that you may want to look at for assistance. Obviously, Internal Audit should have access to your company’s accounting systems. This can enable them to pull data for ongoing monitoring. This may allow you to move towards continuous controls monitoring, on an internal basis. Similarly, one of the areas of core competency of Internal Audit should also be internal controls. You can have Internal Audit assist in a gap analysis to understand what internal controls your company might be missing.

Just as this corporate function’s name implies, Internal Audit routinely performs internal audits of a company. You can use this routine job duty to assist compliance. There will be an existing audit schedule and you can provide some standard compliance issues to be on each audit. Further, compliance risks can also be evaluated in this process. Similar to the audit function are investigations. With some additional training, Internal Audit should be able to assist the compliance function to carry out or participate in internal compliance investigations. Lastly, Internal Audit should be able to assist the compliance function to improve controls following investigations.

A corporate IT department has several functions that can assist compliance. First and foremost, IT controls IT equipment and access to data. This can help you to facilitate investigations by giving you (1) access to email and (2) access to databases within the company. Similar to the above functions, IT will be a policy owner as the subject matter expert so you can turn to them for any of your compliance program requirements which may need a policy that touches on these areas. The final consideration for IT assistance is in the area of internal corporate communication. IT enables communications within a company. You can use IT to aid in your internal company intranet, online training, newsletters or the often mentioned ‘compliance reminders’ discussed in the Morgan Stanley Declination.

Finally, do not forget your business teams. You can embed a compliance champion in all divisions and functions around the company. You can take this a step further by placing a Facility Compliance Officer at every site or location where you might have a large facility or corporate presence. Such local assets can provide feedback for new policies to let you know if they do not they make sense. In some new environments, a policy may not work. If you company uses SAP and you make an acquisition of an entity which does not use this ERP system, your internal policy may need to be modified or amended. A business unit asset can also help to provide a push for training and communications to others similarly situated. One thing that local compliance champions can assist with is helping to set up and coordinate personnel for interviews of employees. This is an often over-looked function but it facilitates local coordination, which is always easier than from the corporate office.

There are many ways to implement or enhance a compliance program in a company. If you do not have the luxury of creating an entire compliance department with an unlimited budget, you may be able to call upon other areas of corporate expertise to facilitate your role. Do not be an Ivory Tower.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Thomas Fox, Compliance Evangelist | Attorney Advertising

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Thomas Fox
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