I. Compensation, Incentive and Compliance

In this episode, Roy Snell and myself discuss how incentives are integral to the compensation plans of a wide range of workers. Many experts point to their value in rewarding behavior that is in the interest of the organization and for keeping workers focused on activities that help the bottom line. At the same time, however, the incentives can pose great risks.

Many corporate scandals have shown that workers and corporate leaders may give in to the temptation to cheat to make their numbers, doing whatever they can to achieve their goals and reap the rewards. As a consequence, incentive plans may turn out to be a roadmap for compliance risk.

This danger argues for the compliance department having a role in reviewing incentive plans, if nothing else than to develop controls that ensure the numbers are hit properly, without violating policies, procedures, the law, and ethical norms.

To better assess the role of the compliance team in reviewing incentive plans, in April 2017 the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and the Health Care Compliance Association fielded a survey among compliance professionals. The results indicate that, despite the risks, compliance rarely plays a role in evaluating incentive programs. For the recent SCCE/HCCA survey on this issue, click here.

For additional writings by Tom see the following blog posts:

Incentivizing Compliance

Executives and Compliance Compensation Incentives

Sales Incentives and Compliance

II. Compliance and the Board of Directors

On a second topic, Roy and I discuss the need that a true compliance expert sit on a company’s Board of Directors. The presence of a such a compliance professional with subject matter expertise on the Board sends a strong message about the organization’s commitment to compliance, provides a valuable resource to other Board members, and helps the Board better fulfill its oversight obligations.

Almost every Board has a former Chief Financial Officer (CFO), former head of Internal Audit or persons with a similar background and often times these are also the Audit Committee members of the Board. Such a background brings a level of sophistication, training and subject matter expertise that can help all companies with their financial reporting and other finance based issues. So why is there not such compliance subject matter expertise at the Board level?

Roy sees it through the prism of the compliance profession and has said, “If you ask most companies if they have compliance expertise on their Board… most would say yes. When asked who the compliance expert is they typically point to a lawyer, auditor, risk manager, or an ethicist. None of these professions are automatically compliance experts. All lawyers have different specialties.” He goes on to state that what regulators want to see is specific compliance expertise at the Board level. He noted, “the government is looking for is not generic compliance expertise. They are looking for compliance program management expertise.

For Roy’s further thoughts on this issues, see his blog post, Compliance Expertise Needed on Your Board”.

For Tom’s writing on the subject see his blog post, “Compliance Expertise Needed on the Board”.