In October, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Lisa O. Monaco gave a Keynote Address at ABA’s 36th National Institute on White Collar Crime (Monaco Speech). Her remarks reframed a discussion about the uses of, reasons for and perceptions on independent monitors and monitorships. I asked Affiliated Monitors Inc. (AMI) founder Vin DiCianni for his thoughts around the remarks on monitors. He said, “For Affiliated Monitors this refreshed approach by DAG Monaco highlights the seriousness which businesses must place on the investment in their programs and in addressing what has for some been a negative experience with a monitor. For those who might be the subject of a monitorship, DAG Monaco recognized that the negativity that has sometimes surrounded monitorships as being punitive, should be seen in a different light bringing value, pointing a way forward and as a solution which has had great success in resolving matters.”
Monaco’s remarks should be studied by every compliance professional as they portend a very large change in the way the Department of Justice (DOJ) will utilize monitors going forward. Over this podcast series, sponsored by AMI, we will consider why DAG Monaco’s remarks herald a new era for monitorships. We will consider Monaco’s remarks from a variety of perspectives. Bethany Hengsbach will consider this change in monitorships from the white-collar enforcement and defense perspective. Mikhail Reider-Gordon will look at global aspects of the new DOJ monitor’s focus. Jesse Caplan brings his views on the twin topics of antitrust and healthcare compliance. We will conclude the series with Vin DiCianni who will look at where monitorships are going in 2022 and beyond. In Part 3, Cristina Revelo, Deputy Director, Corporate Monitoring and Compliance Services at AMI, discusses how ethics and compliance (E&C) assessments help drive more compliant companies.
Revelo has a different professional background than many compliance professionals, having earned both her Master of Science and Bachelor of Science in Accountancy. We began by exploring why a proactive monitorship can be such a valuable tool in a best practices compliance program. With this an independent monitor can help companies review their ethics and compliance programs. AMI’s vast experience in monitorships under different regulators and requirements gives them insights into what the regulators are looking for in this type of project. With this knowledge from prior monitorships AMI can facilitate a very practical assessment. It can highlight to a company what are some gaps within, for example, their anti-corruption program, ethics program, internal controls, or for their entire E&C program.
This type of approach allows AMI to provide recommendations based on what we think the regulars might be looking for. Revelo noted, “These are great because it helps companies get ahead of potential regulators coming, knocking on their door.” It also allows a company to demonstrate they have been proactively working on their E&C program and that they are seeking to close those gaps and enhance their programs.
We then turned to Revelo’s academic and professional background which gives a different perspective from a legally trained compliance professional. As more individuals with different backgrounds, especially with the auditing and forensic background, Revelo feels it really does help in these proactive assessments because she’s looking to “follow the gaps, follow the issues, use the five whys, digging a little bit deeper as opposed to potentially just checking that there is a law and that we have complied with the law.” A forensic type will inevitably dig a little bit deeper to understand a company’s internal controls, how they implement their controls, whether those internal controls are manual or automated, where there could be a failure, essentially to walk through the entire process.
Revelo emphasized, “conducting a walkthrough of your entire internal controls process, sitting with different individuals, having interviews, really understanding, whoever is implementing that process. This allows you to really pick apart and identify the different failures that could come up throughout the different controls in the process.” It is really looking at things through a different lens. From there you can move to enhance or remediate as needed. These are the types of skills and analysis an accountant or forensic auditor could bring to a proactive E&C assessment.
Turning to a more commercial reason for proactive assessments, Revelo concluded with an observation about culture. In the ever-increasing race for talent acquisition and talent retention, culture has become one of the most critical factors for millennials as they make up most of the workforce now and will be above 50% of the workforce in a few years. Millennials want to have pride in a place they work, they want to be happy, and money is not the driving factors in their equation. Revelo noted, “they want to work for companies that are ethical, that are socially responsible, that are behind the right things that they care about.” As these areas fall directly within the area of E&C, Revelo said, “I think it’s really important for companies in order to attract the right talent and retain that talent because sometimes also you see millennials moving jobs very often. Those employees a company might want to retain are going to care about what you are behind, how ethical you are, how you treat your employees, and all of this has to do with a company culture and the ethical culture.”