Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Marshaling Integrity – Jeffrey Kaplan

It's been a few days since the last excerpt (so as to leave the Amazon post prominent--now the new button link should take care of that). From this point on through the end of the month, expect an excerpt or two every day leading up to the publication of the new book. On the 28th, expect excerpts from the five interviews also included in Building a Career in Compliance and Ethics.

These excerpts are taken from our interview of Jeffrey Kaplan, an outside compliance lawyer.

I also do compliance program assessments. That’s an assessment for a board of directors or senior executives as to how effective the company’s compliance program is. I’ve done those both individually and with a consulting firm called the Ethical Leadership Group, with whom I partner for certain engagements. These assessments entail understanding the company’s risks and how the company has responded to those risks in its compliance program. By talking to executives, employees and focus groups (and through other means), we assess how effective the response seems to be to the risks, and make recommendations as to what else can be done through the compliance program to address those risks.

I’ve certainly seen the field grow, seen companies that never to my knowledge were involved in this embrace it, at least to the extent of hiring compliance and ethics officers and having some kind of program. I’ve certainly seen it rise to a higher level of attention than it had in the early days (meaning the early to mid 1990s). I’ve seen more board involvement, which is obviously a good thing, and senior executives’ involvement, also a good thing. All of those things are good and suggest a field that has not yet come of age, but is heading in that direction. The other side of the coin, however, is that the experience of the late 1990s showed that many companies adopted the programs with great fanfare, and yet gradually lost interest in them. The compliance and ethics officers who were hired saw their positions diminish in importance along with the diminishing commitment of the companies.

The difficulty right now for anyone considering the field is to get a sense of whether the renewed interest—which is spawned by Sarbanes-Oxley, the revised Sentencing Guidelines, and related events—represents a fundamental long-term change, or just a bigger version of what happened in the 1990s, when there was, at least at many companies, initial attention which then diminished.

Jeffrey Kaplan's interview is included in Working for Integrity: Finding the Perfect Job in the Rapidly Growing Compliance and Ethics Field.

(All interviewees spoke to us about their own personal experiences and opinions; interviewees were not acting as a spokesperson or otherwise representing their current or former employers.)