In 2015, I undertook an extensive literature review and interviewed 23 anticorruption experts and practitioners to explore a simple question: What does organizational culture look like in a corrupt company? My work was a direct challenge to the long-dominant “bad apple” or “rogue employee” explanation of corporate wrongdoing, focusing instead on the organizational and team conditions that undermine integrity. Subsequent corporate scandals—for example, regarding fake accounts at Wells Fargo or car emissions at Volkswagen—have illustrated the importance of overall culture, rather than individual traits, in driving or undermining integrity. Regulatory interest in the importance of organizational culture has increased. This post will explore the implications of my research study for regulators who seek to evaluate compliance programs. Continue reading
Many constituents have a vested interest in determining a firm’s culture of compliance: regulators, investors, prospective employees, among others. Investment advisers registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission must demonstrate their compliance culture during periodic examinations by the Office of Compliance, Inspection and Examinations. Current and former SEC examination staff often state that the primary indicator of a healthy compliance culture is the “tone from the top.” There are a number of steps that a firm can take to demonstrate that top management fosters an effective compliance culture. Continue reading
“Corporate criminal law . . . operates firmly in a deterrence mode.” The ultimate goal of that deterrence is prevention. But recent evidence suggests that deterrence—and in particular, the corporate fine (the favorite tool of deterrence theorists)—is not particularly good at the job. For a host of structural and practical reasons, corporate fines do not influence corporate behavior as we might have hoped. In a forthcoming article, Clockwork Corporations: A Character Theory of Corporate Punishment, I propose abolishing the corporate fine and offer an alternative framework for structuring corporate punishment. The proposal expands on a strategy prosecutors already employ, albeit imperfectly, as part of corporate deferred prosecution agreements: mandating corporate reform. On this new approach, such government-directed reform would be the exclusive means of corporate punishment, and judges and judge-appointed monitors, rather than prosecutors, would be in the driver’s seat. This “character” theory of punishing corporations could beat deterrence theory at its own game by preventing more corporate crime. Continue reading
Effective anti-corruption compliance programs include protections for whistleblowers that raise corruption concerns. Article 13.3 of Russia‘s 2008 Federal Law No. 273-FZ on Counteracting Corruption (the “Anti-Corruption Law”) addressed Russian lawmakers’ expectations regarding effective compliance programs. But the law was silent on whistleblower protections. Recently proposed legislation in Russia may help address this gap.
Even before the Anti-Corruption Law came into effect, Russian law included several provisions that could be interpreted to provide some protection for whistleblowers. For example, Russian employment law prohibits discrimination and sets out an exhaustive list of permissible grounds for dismissing an employee for cause; firing an employee for blowing the whistle on potential corruption is not among them. As a result, firing an employee for whistleblowing could ran afoul of Russian employment law. In addition, the Russian government can protect individuals whose security might be threatened as a result of their participation in criminal proceedings that involve alleged corruption. The state might, for example, provide such witnesses with physical protection, relocate them, or even give them new identities. Continue reading
Part 2 – Changing the Game Plan
In late June, FIFA, the world’s governing soccer organization, released the “Garcia Report,” chronicling the extensive corruption and conflicts of interest that occurred in FIFA’s awarding of the men’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup venues. Part 1 summarized the report’s findings. Part 2 discusses how specific steps and safeguards can mitigate the risks of misconduct and ensure cooperation among FIFA officials – and at any organization.
FIFA’s problems started at the top. FIFA’s investigators found an astounding number of executive committee members committed misconduct and showed disdain for the investigation. FIFA’s failures were systemic and reflected a culture of corruption. An organization’s culture cannot be fixed simply by strengthening rules or creating a targeted compliance program. Indeed, these are meaningless if the leaders themselves are corrupt. Executives must have integrity and show a commitment to everyone’s compliance with the law. FIFA needs to identify candidates for its executive committee that have shown integrity and a dedication to complying with rules and laws. Continue reading
Part 1 – Foul Play
The first installment of this two-part series summarizes the Garcia Report’s findings of misconduct. Author Brandon Fox also focuses on the difficulties investigators faced as a result of leaders failing to cooperate and contrasts the misconduct and lack of cooperation to the U.S. Soccer Federation’s behavior.
In late June, FIFA, the world’s governing soccer organization, released the Garcia Report chronicling the extensive corruption and conflicts of interest that occurred in FIFA’s awarding of the men’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup venues. This article summarizes the Garcia Report’s findings of misconduct, focusing on the difficulties investigators faced as a result of leaders failing to cooperate, and discusses how specific steps and safeguards can mitigate the risks of misconduct and ensure cooperation among FIFA officials – and at any organization. Continue reading
What is the connection between what the SEC actually does and what it says it will do? In 2013, the SEC unveiled a new policy requiring some enforcement targets to admit wrongdoing when they settled with the agency. In An Empirical Study of Admissions in SEC Settlements, we analyze settlements from before and after the introduction of this policy to determine how the SEC’s practice lines up with its new approach to admissions. We find an uptick of admissions following the policy announcement, with the highest number in FY2016. Using an inclusive definition of admissions, we identify fewer than one hundred settlements containing admissions that were announced during the seven years of our study (FY2011-FY2017). Continue reading
“Justice cannot mean a prison sentence for a teenager who steals a car, but nothing more than a sideways glance at a C.E.O. who quietly engineers the theft of billions of dollars,” wrote U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren in a New York Times op-ed. When she calls for stronger action against corporate crime, she’s not alone. Calls resound, particularly on the political left. In 2015, the Department of Justice, under then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, issued a new policy (PDF: 448.14 KB) prioritizing prosecuting corporate criminals.
Punishing corporate executives more strongly may be justified. Punishment rarely occurs, and, when it does, it is often too weak to constitute “justice.” But once we agree that more punishment is warranted, the next question is how we can make punishment more effective in preventing corporate crime? Continue reading