Scam Artists From Texas And Compliance Risk Management

by Thomas Fox

Billie Sol Estes died yesterday and when it comes to scam artists from the great state of Texas, before there was Allen Stanford and his magical Certificates of Deposits located in his private bank in Antigua, there was Billie Sol Estes. Before Sir Allen came along, Billie Sol had a 50 year run as the King of Texas Swindlers. He was most well-known for his scam involving phony financial statements and non-existent fertilizer tanks to loot a federal crop subsidy program. He went to jail for mail fraud over this scheme, although his conviction was later over-turned. But his lasting legacy may be the following quote by former Associated Press (AP) correspondent Mike Cochran, who recalled writing how Estes made millions of dollars in phone fertilizer tanks scam and noted “how many city slickers from New York or Chicago can make a fortune selling phantom cow manure?”

Billie Sol’s risk tolerance was quite high and his implementation of a risk management plan may have seemed, well, rather 1950ish. Hopefully your company is a tad more mature in this process. But after you have identified a compliance risk, what should the next steps be for a company’s Chief Compliance Officer (CCO)? This question was explored in an article by C. J. Rathbun, in the May/June issue of Compliance and Ethics Professional Magazine, in an article entitled “You’ve identified a corporate risk—what next?”. Rathbun believes that any consideration of such an identified risk will be in the context of three key questions:

  1. The severity of the risk weighed against the company’s appetite for risk.
  2. How the company has performed in the past on managing similar risks and if so, what the impact might be on the company if the risk actually occurred.
  3. The probability or likelihood of the risk event occurring.

I.                   The Compliance Report

Rathbun explained that a CCO needs to consider several questions when shaping the report which will go to the management group or Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to make any decision on whether a new risk should be accepted. These questions include:

  • Who is the audience for the report? Will it be the CEO, Board of Directors or some other senior management group or council? Further, what is the level of trust between the CCO and those constituent groups? Has the CCO been elevated to a C-Suite level position within the company? Could the audience be a regulatory body or perhaps even a Judge?
  • What is your company’s organizational structure? In this question you need to consider how decisions of this dimension are usually made in your company.
  • What reputational risk for the company should be anticipated? This is the Wall Street Journal (or New York Times) questions. How would your CEO feel if he woke up to read about your company and its decision being on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?
  • What should be incorporated into the report? Should other business concerns be incorporated into the report, such as financial or other legal issues?
  • How should the report be presented? In what format or with what technology should the report be presented? Will the group or person tasked with making the decision accept a written report or will it simply be a high-level PowerPoint presented to a Board of Directors?

 II.                Weighing the Options

Once the report is considered and the options weighed, what are some of the possible outcomes that a company may utilize? Rathbun breaks the options down to four. The first is risk avoidance, where a company decides that the risk is simply too great. The second option is risk management, where the company implements procedures to manage the risk and then monitors the risk closely. The third is risk shifting where some portion of the risk is transferred through insurance or other mechanism. Fourth, and finally, is that the company can simply accept the risk, so risk acceptance.

III.             Implementation

Rathbun believes that the risk management choice is the one which may well take the most work, particularly for a CCO. You may be required to create new policies and procedures to assist in the risk management process. Any new policies and procedures will need to be implemented with attendant training for the affected employees. There will need to be follow-up monitoring to ensure engagement and accountability.

IV.              Confirming Changes in Behavior

Rathbun articulates that are two mechanisms by which a “checkback” can be performed on policies, procedures, actions and employee accountability. These two mechanisms are monitoring and auditing. Monitoring is a commitment to reviewing and detecting compliance programs in real time and then reacting quickly to remediate them. A primary goal of monitoring is to identify and address gaps in your program on a regular and consistent basis. Auditing is a more limited review that targets a specific business component, region or market sector during a particular timeframe in order to uncover and/or evaluate certain risks, particularly as seen in financial records. However, more aggressive approaches may be required such as the addition of follow-up assessments to confirm effective management of the new risk.

Rathbun cautions that the use of more standard tools to “checkback” should also be utilized. These include compliance by third parties, testing or otherwise gauging employee knowledge regarding the risk management program and even hotline complaints. Rathbun also suggests that relatively new tools such as transaction monitoring, relationship monitoring and real-time party monitoring of third parties should be considered.

V.                 End Goal

Rathbun believes that the end goal should be “to allow the company to identify a growing concern before it becomes an issue—before consumers are harmed or regulators become concerned.” While a well-structured program does require vigilance it also allows the opportunity for continuous improvement for your company. Rathbun concludes by stating that your goal should be to “help ensure that you and your company ‘will get the first crack’ at addressing a problem, if one occurs.”

I found the Rathbun article to provide a good method for the compliance practitioner to think through, then design and implement a risk management plan, within the context of your overall compliance program. Although she never states it, a key component that she outlined is the Document, Document, Document component of any compliance program. The Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission said in their FCPA Guidance “In the end, if designed carefully, implemented earnestly, and enforced fairly, a company’s compliance program—no matter how large or small the organization—will allow the company generally to prevent violations, detect those that do occur, and remediate them promptly and appropriately.” I believe that you can achieve such a carefully designed and earnestly implemented risk management program by using Rathbun’s suggestions.

Finally, if a long, tall Texan comes to you wanting to borrow money against some fertilizer tanker; do not just turn and walk, run in the other direction.

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

Written by:

Thomas Fox

Compliance Evangelist on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.