Over the next five podcasts, I will visit with Vin DiCianni, CEO and founder of Affiliated Monitors, Inc. (AMI) as a retrospective of the company’s first 15 years. AMI sponsored this podcast series. This podcast series is much more than simply the history of AMI as it details the rise of independent monitors in the US at multiple levels: the federal government, state agencies and local authorities as well as internationally. AMI has been at the forefront of not only the use of independent monitors but also the dramatic growth of the compliance and ethics profession over the past 15 year. This podcast series is then a history of both the rise of independent monitors as well as the government’s embrace of corporate compliance and ethics programs. In Episode 1, I visit with DiCianni on how he developed the idea which led to the founding AMI.

DiCianni began formulating the idea of an independent monitor when he observed a series of corporate punishments which he believed did not fit the crime. As a white-collar defense lawyer in the 1990s, DiCianni saw that there was only two ways a state regulator could go if someone was convicted of a transgression such as billing mistakes or similar regulatory violations. The licensed professional would either be convicted and have their state license suspended or revoked or there would be no prosecution. DiCianni viewed this as “a death sentence” for a licensed professional. He added, “It just seemed wrong to me, but there was nothing that was out there. For about seven, eight years, this idea just percolated in my head about doing something to create these alternative sanctions, if you will, on the probationary side of things. So that a doctor or the practitioner could get better.”

The reality is that license revocation or suspension for relatively minor regulatory infractions does no good for any of the parties involved. It unfairly and harshly penalized the defendant. It penalized the public interest by removing a valuable service provider from bringing those skills to address a public need. Finally, it penalized the regulator whose interest was not always punishment but in remediation in fostering practitioners to understand and practice within a jurisdiction’s regulatory scheme.

From this point, DiCianni was able to convince some state regulators in Massachusetts to try this third way of having an independent monitor step in and assess whether a professional, who had run afoul of a regulatory scheme, could be rehabilitated via a probationary structure. He then I reached out to a number of folks in the Boston area. Some of them were regulators, some were attorneys who represented folks before the state boards, some were acting state attorneys general and some were in business. With this idea coming to fruition, the next step for DiCianni was to create a business organization to fill this niche.

One of the first things that DiCianni established with AMI was both integrity and professionalism in the company’s monitorship roles. The integrity comes from the independence that your organization can bring to the monitorship process. DiCianni said that one of the key reasons for success of a monitor is true impendence. Previously, a state regulatory board might appoint one of its own to become the monitor. In reality they were simply the “eyes and ears of the board.” Conversely, if the monitor is the best friend of the recalcitrant party, DiCianni noted, “then there’s a clear bias and lack of objectivity and neutrality to the process. AMI was able to bring itself in as a true neutral. The professionalism is the subject matter expertise you can bring to bear on a monitorship. Having both of these two ingredients was key for AMI to successfully establish itself with regulators.”

DiCianni said that another key feature of a successful monitorship is around education. A monitor is not there simply to represent the interests of a regulator, on a punitive basis. The monitor can also work to help educate a person or organization on how to better meet their regulatory obligations beyond simply meeting the base letter of the law. In other words, moving beyond simply a check-the-box program. All of these concepts had to be explained, literally again and again to regulators. DiCianni said, “It is talking to them, explaining to them what you do, telling them sort of the benefits of what they’re getting here and then showing them some of the examples of how monitoring works.” He spent “a lot of time sort of building some ground swell of support for the concept of the independent monitor.”

Join us tomorrow as we discuss the early years of AMI and independent monitorships.

For more information on how an independent monitor can help improve your company’s ethics and compliance program, visit our sponsor Affiliated Monitors at www.affiliatedmonitors.com.