How Do You Develop A Compliance Practitioner?

by Thomas Fox
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The Morrill Act was a seminal moment in American education. This law, passed in 1862, provided that land-grant institutions of higher learning should be created “without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”

Under the Act, each eligible state received a total of 30,000 acres of federal land, either within or contiguous to its boundaries, for each member of congress the state had as of the census of 1860. This land, or the proceeds from its sale, was to be used toward establishing and funding the educational institutions described above. The law had been introduced in the 1850s but the Southern land aristocracy, who most assuredly did not want universal education for the masses, prevented it from being enacted into law. With the South in rebellion, the measure passed in the first Congress elected after the Civil War had begun.

I was at Michigan State University (MSU) this past weekend and one of the school’s biggest points of pride is that it was an original land-grant college, originally named Michigan Agricultural College. I met with the Director of my old graduate program, which is now Human Resources-Labor Relations (HR-LR), Bill Cooke. One of the things that the school does is to train HR professionals. I talked with Director Cooke about my beliefs on how HR ties into a company’s compliance program. That led to a discussion about the training HR professionals receive on anti-corruption compliance programs such as those designed to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or UK Bribery Act.

My visit to MSU, and the discussions about training in graduate programs, got me to thinking about the training of a compliance profession. How do you do it? What should go into it? Most compliance practitioners’ experience is somewhat similar to mine; I am a lawyer and worked in a corporate legal department. I was thrown into a compliance role with not little training, but no training. It was simply go to a seminar and learn about FCPA compliance. And, of course, good luck. I had the same happy experience when I was appointed as world-wide export control director. At least I could spell FCPA when I started that role.

What is available out there if you want to learn how to become a compliance practitioner? If you are a law student and attending Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Law, you could take the FCPA Professor’s upper-level elective course entitled “Current Developments in American Law: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act”. The Professor was interviewed about his class in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, in an article entitled “Students take bribe(ry class).” The article noted that through this study of the FCPA itself, its history, judicial decisions involving it, enforcement of it and resolved FCPA enforcement actions, the FCPA Professor believes that “Understanding how the law is enforced and critically analyzing it and developing FCPA compliance skills is really a skill set for any future lawyer to have.” The FCPA Professor also uses this course to expose his students to other areas, “including corporate criminal liability, U.S. Department of Justice and SEC enforcement policies and “a working knowledge of resolution vehicles that are used to resolve FCPA enforcement actions.””

But this is a law school class for (most probably) prospective lawyers. There are many compliance practitioners out there who are not lawyers. In my discussions with Director Cooke there are so many areas where a HR professional can help inculcate compliance into a company’s DNA. Think about some or all of the following areas that are in the core function of HR.

Training – A key role for HR in any company is training. This has traditionally been in areas such as discrimination, harassment and safety, to name just a few and based on this traditional role of HR in training it is a natural extension of HR’s function to expand to the area of FCPA compliance and ethics.

Employee Evaluation and Succession Planning - One of the very important functions of HR is assisting management in setting the criteria for employee bonuses and in the evaluation of employees for those bonuses. This is an equally important role in conveying the company message of adherence to a FCPA compliance and ethics policy. In addition to employee evaluation, HR can play a key role in assisting a company to identify early on in an employee’s career the propensity for compliance and ethics by focusing on leadership behaviors in addition to simply business excellence.

Hotlines and Investigations - One of the traditional roles of HR in the US is to maintain a hotline for reporting of harassment claims, whether based on EEOC violations or other types of harassment. It is a natural extension of HR’s traditional function to handle this role.

I believe that the compliance practitioner needs a multi-disciplinary training. The legal training is a good basis but if you went to a law school like mine, real world discussion were considered what ‘other’ law schools did. Further, there are non-legal areas such as review of financial data and financial controls which are a part of any compliance practitioners remit which also need to be considered. Most of these areas are a part of separate disciplines which need to be tied together for the compliance practitioner.

One resource for such training is the SCCE, which provides a compliance certification through its Compliance Certification Board (CCB) which has developed criteria to determine competence in the practice of compliance and ethics across various industries and specialty areas, and recognizes individuals meeting these criteria through its compliance certification programs. But even these programs only provide a starting point as best practices in a compliance regime continue to evolve, particularly through the use of advanced analytics.

Just as the Morrill Act provided an initial basis for professional studies in agricultural and mechanical disciplines, land-grant colleges continue to evolve. MSU, for instance, wants to be a university to the world. The same evolution is true for compliance practitioners. As our field matures, the need for the development of compliance practitioners will increase. Courses like the FCPA Professor leads for lawyers and the SCCE puts on for compliance practitioners will help drive the next generation of compliance professionals.

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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