I often write about the nuts and bolts of an effective compliance program but one of the most basic things that an effective compliance program must have is a compliance department present to ask the basic questions of compliance to and receive an answer from. I think to the DOJ and SEC this means a couple of things. First, and foremost, there must be the requisite number of resources dedicated to the compliance function. This means that a compliance department must be staffed with an appropriate number of compliance professionals to do the day-to-day basic work of compliance. Head count is always important in any corporation but there must be some minimum number of people in the compliance department to answer the phone or respond to email.

But, equally important to this resource issue is providing centralized assistance and what the FCPA Guidance says is “to provide guidance and advice on complying with a company’s ethics and compliance program”. In other words, it is up the corporation to have someone there to answer the phone but once they are in that compliance department seat, they have to actually pick up the phone and respond. It is the responsibility of a compliance practitioner to provide the guidance to company personnel who call in or email with questions. Following compliance policies and procedures is always important but to have a live person to answer questions or walk a non-compliance person through the process is a must.

In other words, if someone calls, not only does a compliance person have to be there, someone has to pick up the phone. How many times has a compliance department been called on a Friday afternoon to find that no one is there to answer the phone? But if someone is there, they have to actually pick up the phone and provide an answer. I have inveigled against the compliance function being “The Land of No”; but the situation I am discussing is where a compliance department does not or will not provide the basic answers to a person working out in the field.

The same concepts are a part of a best practices compliance program; someone must be around the pick-up and answer the phone when it rings on Friday afternoon and provide some answers to the question(s) posed.

Three Key Takeaways 

  1. Pick up the phone.
  2. Compliance cannot be The Land of No populated by Dr. No, leave that honor to the Law Department.
  3. The Justice Department now requires compliance expertise and competence of compliance practitioners as a part of a best practices compliance program.

For more information, check out my book Doing Compliance: Design, Create and Implement an Effective Anti-Corruption Compliance Program, which is available by clicking here.