Today Jay and I consider the first ‘new’Star Wars movie entry, Episode VII –The Force Awakens. I say it is a new Star Wars movie as it was the first one not created by LucasFilms, as George Lucas had sold his company to Disney, which produced the 2016 entry into the Star Wars oeuvre. It was directed by JJ Abrams and told the story of the Star Wars universe some 30 years after the destruction of the last Death Star.  It is this disruptive nature of the Star Wars franchise that I will focus on today as it relates to disruptive innovation in compliance.

The film introduced several new characters: Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren and the First Order, a successor to the Galactic Empire. The film was largely one giant search for Luke Skywalker who had gone into isolation after his failure to re-establish the Jedi order. In addition to introducing the new characters, we are reunited with Han, Chewbacca and Princess Leia, who is now General Leia Organa. The First Order has developed new weapon, Starkiller, a deliciously worthy successor to the Death Star; the Rebel Alliance majorly disrupts the weapon and the First Order by destroying it, in the film’s climactic battle.

One of the key things the Department of Justice (DOJ) has communicated over the past few months is the importance of doing compliance rather than having a paper compliance program in place. In releasing the new Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Corporate Enforcement Policy, the DOJ emphasized the clear delineation of factors they will consider in determining if a company has an operationalized best practices compliance program in place in the context of a FCPA enforcement action. All of this has required disruptive innovation in compliance beyond the simple paper compliance program which until recently was seen as the norm.

This leads to three key elements of disruption theory, which fit the compliance context. The first is that compliance is a process. The second key point is that Compliance 3.0 is very different from compliance programs of the past decade. The third point is that not all disruptive innovations succeed. As many compliance practitioners are lawyers, we are naturally reticent to embrace such change, however I think the pronouncements of the DOJ throughout the year have made even clearer the need for continued evolution of anti-corruption compliance going forward.

In The Force Awakens, there were numerous disruptions. We saw the death of one of the most beloved characters in the series, Han Solo, the growing awareness by Rey of her powers and the return of Luke Skywalker. It totally disrupted the First Order and destroyed its most lethal weapon. You can draw on this inspiration for your compliance regime.

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