Typical of his fashion, Sam Rubenfeld announced his departure from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Risk and Compliance Journal via Twitter. If there was one person who mastered the intricacies of Twitter it was Sam. Moreover, he mastered the retweet of tweets on articles from his former employer. I once timed the length of time it took Sam to retweet a retweet of a WSJ article I tweeted out and it was 0.3 seconds. Pretty impressive.
Even more impressive was Sam’s body of work at the WSJ. Some six months after graduating from Hofstra University, Sam joined the WSJ as a copy editor. Six months after joining the WSJ, he migrated over to writing the Corruption Currents blog and as an editor for both Dow Jones Newsletters and Dow Jones Newswires. Out of this work on Corruption Currents, evolved the WSJ vertical, the Risk and Compliance Journal. At the Risk and Compliance Journal, he reported on issues of corporate risks concerning bribery, money laundering, sanctions breaches, counter-terrorist financing and much more.
Sam now joins three former reporters who have also left the Corruption Currents blog and Risk and Compliance Journal site. Joe Palazzo and Chris Matthews, who both remain with the WSJ reporting on national news and the oil and gas industry respectively, and Ben DiPietro who left last summer to join LRN. (See my tribute to Ben here). I look forward to the next group of WSJ stalwarts continuing their fine tradition. As the last remaining reporters from this first group, it seems like a good time to consider how much they, the Corruption Currents Blog and the Risk and Compliance Journal, have contributed to the story of compliance over the nearly 10 years of existence.
In the compliance space, all of us have a role in the fight against the international scourge of bribery and corruption. In the corporate world, ask almost any seasoned compliance professional and they will tell you that working to better both the corporate condition and fighting bribery and corruption is something which motivates them on a daily basis. For folks like myself, writing, speaking and podcasting about how compliance programs not only improve companies’ bottom lines and but also help fight bribery and corruption is always high on our list. For the prosecutors and regulators, both at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), their role is to not only enforce anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws but to also drive greater compliance.
Finally, the Fourth Estate has a role as well. How important is that role? It is so important that within a year of working on corruption issues for the WSJ, Sam was named as one of the most influential people in business ethics by Ethisphere. In naming Rubenfeld (and his co-hort, Joe Palazzo), Ethisphere stated, “The Wall Street Journal recently launched its “Corruption Currents” blog, a compilation of top news stories around the world that cover anti-corruption and anti-bribery efforts. Rubenfeld, in 2010, was one of the most active contributors to the blog. Although there are many comprehensive anti-corruption related blogs and web resources available, the Corruption Currents blog receives added points because of the large audience that the Wall Street Journal is able to reach.”
The Press drives transparency by reporting, on all the stories, big and small, of compliance. Sam’s work, initially on Corruption Currents blog and later on the Risk and Compliance Journal, continued this noble tradition. (Albeit without the uber-cool logo.) Sam’s daily curation of compliance and ethics, bribery and corruption and a wealth of similar stories was a daily highlight for all in the compliance space. More than simply a highlight it was required reading to keep abreast of the world’s stories in this space.
In addition to keeping the compliance world abreast of stories on a daily basis, Sam reported for the Risk and Compliance Journal. A sampling of some of his recent work include With New Laws and Some Help, Iraq Turned Around Anti-Money-Laundering Problems; U.S. to Send Stolen Assets Back to Kyrgyzstan and Cognizant Case Shows How Firms Can Avoid Charges Even Amid Alleged Wrongdoing.Yet these pieces do not even begin to scratch the body of work Sam generated at the Risk and Compliance Journal.
Sam is also very passionate about his work. Get him going anytime about his writing, in the field of bribery and corruption, covering major federal trials or the impact of the Magnitsky Act and he will go on and on. All of this pointed out why Sam was not only such a great journalist but why his role in the global fight against bribery and corruption is so important. It is the Press which brings many of these stories to light. Without a robust and free press there would not have been the uncovering of the shell companies, as documented in the Panama and Paradise Papers. Consider how important those revelations are to a best practices compliance program.
What is the quality of Sam’s journalism? I will leave you with one of his last pieces for the WSJ, yet one that may be an even more lasting legacy for him. It is entitled “‘No War Is Won’: Benjamin B. Ferencz Continues His Fight for Justice at 98” and it details the story of the last surviving prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials, Benjamin Ferencz, who is the subject of a new documentary. It tells the story of a man who literally went from digging up graves of murdered Jews in liberated concentration camps to prosecuting some of the greatest mass murderers in history to working diligently for years to help found the International Criminal Court. Sam ended his piece with the following quote from Ferencz, “If we are repudiating law as an instrument of policy, you’re dooming the young people of the forthcoming generation—if there is one”.
I can think of no other line that encapsulates the international fight against bribery and corruption more fully. Congress passed the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in 1977. Companies help enforce the law through best practices compliance programs. Journalists like Sam Rubenfeld write about corruption and compliance on a daily basis to keep the spotlight focused where it should be.
And finally, on a very personal note, to a good friend, I wish you well on your next endeavor and a huge thank you from the entire compliance community for your work at the WSJ.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2019