Category Archives: Governance

Cyberspace is the New Battlespace

by Jeh Charles Johnson

[Following personal reflections on his return to private life from public service, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson delivered the following keynote address at the Global Cyber Threats: Corporate and Governmental Challenges to Protecting Private Data cybersecurity conference held by the Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement at New York University School of Law on April 6, 2018.]

Like millions of other Americans, my world was rocked by the terrorist attack that occurred a few blocks from here on September 11, 2001.  Like many of you, I am a New Yorker, and was in Manhattan that day.  September 11 also happens to be my birthday.  I have a vivid recollection of the day, both before and after 8:46 a.m., when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  At 9:59 a.m., when the first tower collapsed, it was perhaps the only time in my life when my mind could not believe what my eyes were seeing.  Neither would I have been able to comprehend then that 15 years later, there would be something called the Department of Homeland Security, that I would lead it, and that the Secretary’s New York office would occupy the 50th floor of a taller, stronger World Trade Center tower standing in the same place. Continue reading

Increasing Regulatory Focus on Reforming Financial Institution Culture and Addressing Employee Misconduct Risk

by Brad Karp, H. Christopher Boehning, Susanna Buergel, Jessica Carey, Michael Gertzman, Roberto Gonzalez, and Grace Tiedemann

Since the financial crisis—and more recently in the wake of the Wells Fargo sales practices scandal and the benchmark manipulation enforcement actions—bank regulators in the United States and around the world have become increasingly focused on reforming institutional culture and pursuing other actions to mitigate employee misconduct risk. The Federal Reserve Board’s recent and unprecedented enforcement action against Wells Fargo, which we have discussed previously,[1] is a stark demonstration of regulators’ vigorous focus on these issues. In addition to misconduct that may take place against customers, counterparties, and markets, the recent attention on sexual harassment and employee treatment has also raised questions about the capacity of companies across sectors to address misconduct that takes place within the walls of the company itself. Continue reading

Federal Reserve Takes Severe and Unprecedented Action Against Wells Fargo: Implications for Directors of All Public Companies

by Edward D. Herlihy, Richard K. Kim, and Sabastian V. Niles

In a stinging rebuke, the Federal Reserve on February 2nd issued an enforcement action barring Wells Fargo from increasing its total assets and mandating substantial corporate governance and risk management actions.  The Federal Reserve noted in its press release that Wells will replace three current board members by April and a fourth board member by the end of the year.  In addition, the Federal Reserve released three supervisory letters publicly censuring Wells’ board of directors, former Chairman and CEO John Stumpf and a past lead independent director.  These actions are a sharp departure from precedent, both in their severity and their public nature.  They come on the heels of significant actions already taken by Wells, including appointing a former Federal Reserve governor as independent Chair and replacing a number of independent directors as well as its General Counsel.  Continue reading

Creating a Culture of Compliance

by Michael C. Neus

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

Securities Fraud Class Action Suits following Cyber Breaches: The Trickle Before the Wave

by Michael S. Flynn, Avi Gesser, Joseph A. Hall, Edmund Polubinski III, Neal A. Potischman, Brian S. Weinstein, Peter Starr and Jessica L. Turner

Overview

Large-scale data breaches can give rise to a host of legal problems for the breached entity, ranging from consumer class action litigation to congressional inquiries and state attorneys general investigations.  Increasingly, issuers are also facing the specter of federal securities fraud litigation.[1]

The existence of securities fraud litigation following a cyber breach is, to some extent, not surprising.  Lawyer-driven securities litigation often follows stock price declines, even declines that are ostensibly unrelated to any prior public disclosure by an issuer.  Until recently, significant declines in stock price following disclosures of cyber breaches were rare.  But that is changing.  The recent securities fraud class actions brought against Yahoo! and Equifax demonstrate this point; in both of those cases, significant stock price declines followed the disclosure of the breach.  Similar cases can be expected whenever stock price declines follow cyber breach disclosures.  Continue reading

Russia Considers Enhanced Whistleblower Protections

by Jane Shvets, Anna V. Maximenko, and Elena Klutchareva

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.[1]  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

Keeping Score of FIFA’s Corruption, Compliance and Efforts for Reform – Part 2

by Brandon D. Fox

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.

Leadership

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

Keeping Score of FIFA’s Corruption, Compliance and Efforts for Reform – Part 1

by Brandon D. Fox

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

Insights for All Companies from the SEC’s Cybersecurity Examination of Regulated Financial Entities

by Sabastian V. Niles and Marshall L. Miller

In August 2017, the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) of the Securities and Exchange Commission released the results of its second Cybersecurity Initiative, which examined cybersecurity-related preparedness and implementation efforts by 75 regulated financial entities.  The resulting OCIE Risk Alert depicts an industry demonstrating heightened sensitivity to cyber risks, but also experiencing gaps between policy ambition and day-to-day execution, and confronting growing pains associated with accelerated change, including the introduction of significant new policies and procedures that may lack focus or consistent implementation.  While the Risk Alert directly addresses the cybersecurity procedures of broker-dealers, investment advisers, and other SEC-regulated entities, companies in all industries should consider assessing their practices with respect to the issues highlighted by the SEC. Continue reading

A Fox News Reminder: The Perils of Hush-hush

by Donald C. Langevoort

Recent media reports say that certain parties associated with Fox News have been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors to obtain testimony and information about allegations that Fox may have quietly settled a series of sexual harassment cases brought by Fox employees against former Chairman Roger Ailes.  This is all far too sketchy and preliminary to draw any inferences about actual violations of law, especially as the reports came out in the course of nasty private litigation.  But the news is a timely reminder to lawyers and compliance officials of how treacherous the waters are for anyone caught up in this kind of narrative—one where a key company official (often the one sitting on the corporate throne) may have engaged in serious unethical or unlawful behavior, with a strong desire in-house that the troublesome allegations never become public. Continue reading