The Mummy’s Hand and a Risk-Based Approach at the Board Level

by Thomas Fox

Today we consider the 1940’s film, The Mummy’s Hand as the second installment in Universal Pictures series featuring this creature. Boris Karloff departed the role and it was taken over for one film by Tom Tyler, who was better known for his cowboy roles and his stint as Captain Marvel in the 1940 serial bearing the same name.

The film begins with the Egyptian, Andoheb traveling to the Hill of the Seven Jackals in answer to the royal summons of the High Priest of Karnak. The dying priest of the sect explains the story of The Mummy, named Kharis. The tale closely parallels that of the original film, except that Kharis steals the sacred tana leaves in the hope of restoring life to the dead Princess Ananka. His penalty upon being discovered is to be buried alive, without a tongue, and the tana leaves are buried with him.

The leaves are the secret to Kharis’ continued existence. During the cycle of the full moon, the fluid from the brew of three tana leaves is to be administered to the creature to keep him alive. Should despoilers enter the tomb of the Princess, a fluid of nine leaves will restore movement to the monster. Some down on their luck American archaeologists find a vase which they believe contains clues to the location of the Princess Ananka’s tomb. Of course, it does and after securing funding from a rich ex-pat they are off to the desert to find the tomb, along with the funder’s beautiful daughter.

In the final scene, The Mummy attempts to drink a brew of the tana leaves. He is prevented and the lead American explorer overturns a brazier onto the monster, engulfing it in flames. The ending has the members of the expedition heading happily back to the United States with the mummy of Ananka, and the spoils of her tomb. It all sets up the next sequel.

I thought about all of this when considering a recent visit I had with Gerry Czarnecki, founder of the National Leadership Institute. He is a well-known thought leader in leadership and corporate governance. He called himself a “corporate governance fanatic” which he went on to define as believing in the incredibly important role Boards of Directors in corporate governance, tempered with the fact that he believes a Board’s role is oversight not management of the organization. One of the things that intrigued me was that Czarnecki suggested a risk based approach to corporate governance at the Board level.

One consistent issue almost every Board of Director struggles with is how to engage in oversight without stepping over the line into management. Czarnecki believes this issue exists in most Boardrooms across the country. They are worried about how much they drill down “and management’s fret over their drilling down so far that they get into the operating management function.”

He said it all starts with the most powerful tool a Board of Director has in place – that of inquiry or as he termed it the “capacity for inquiry the capacity to ask questions.” He provided an example around the Board’s role in cybersecurity, noting when you look at cybersecurity and technology, Board members should know enough about the subject matter that they are focused on to ask questions that enlighten them. He said, “I walk into a boardroom for my first board meeting and I say I’d like to know a little bit more about what our cybersecurity plan is all about. Could you give me a quick update on what how do we protect what it is we want to protect? Someone will start going into the type of security software the company has in place. But the real questions is “what data we decide that we have to protect what are the pieces of data. What do we think we are our crown jewels? If we lose control over that data we are putting our business at risk or we’re putting our customers at risk?”

Czarnecki went on to note such an inquiry alone would be enough to generate a discussion with management about what were the company’s crown jewels. But the key, for a Board member, is to ask that question because the management team has not thought about it. This will stimulate an important discussion within the management team about what should they spend their money on, which is of course the type of business question that management should be asking and answering. He emphasized that it is not a question of technology, it is a business question.

If you think about this approach, it is a risk-based approach. Czarnecki is asking management to assess its risks of the crown jewels of data being breached. If so what would be the cost? From there, management should then determine the best risk management strategy to employ. This parallels the approach of the former Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Coca-Cola who once told me that there was one thing that was the most important to the company which he had to protect at all costs. Both the good guys and the bad guys knew what it was, the formula to Coca-Cola.

This example also powers how a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) should think about their approach to the Board. Former Department of Justice (DOJ) Compliance Counsel Hui Chen has said the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Program (Evaluation) document is designed to get compliance professionals to think about their compliance program. I believe a CCO should try and get the Board to think about compliance by using a risk based strategy laid out by Czarnecki. What are your highest compliance risks? What would be the costs to your company if those risks were breached? From there you can begin to see how to budget for your highest risks.

So how about the American archaeologists in The Mummy’s Hand, did they use a risk based approach? I would suggest you check out the movie to find out.

[View source.]

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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