How does Shakespeare portend social media in the 21st century? I would submit that one only need look at Much Ado About Nothing to see how it should all play out. As with all Shakespeare’s plays there is quite a bit going on but the play centers around the action and dialogue of Benedick and Beatrice who go after each other in a manner which shames modern NBA trash-talkers. Apparently everyone else in the play understands the two are meant for each other so they engage in a very social media style of communication to put the two together. Of course, as this is a comedy, everyone ends up married so Beatrice and Benedick, prompted by their friends’ interference, finally, and publicly, confess their love for each other.
Yesterday I wrote about ways to think through using social media in your Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) anti-corruption compliance program. Today I want to explore how one company and one Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) actively uses social media to make more effective the company’s compliance regime. The company is the venerable Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) and its CCO, Louis Sapirman, whom I visited with about his company’s integration of social media into compliance.
Initially Sapirman emphasized the tech savvy nature of the company’s work force. It is not simply about having a younger work force. If your company is in the services business it probably means an employee base using technological tools to deliver solutions. He also pointed to the data driven nature of the D&B business so using technological tools to deliver products and solutions is something the company has been doing for quite a while. This use of technological tools led the company to consider how such techniques could be used internally in disciplines which may not have incorporated them into their repertories previously.
Not surprisingly, with most any successful corporate initiative, Sapirman said it began at the top of the organization, literally with the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Robert Carrigan. Sapirman noted that the CEO saw the advantage of using social media internally and challenged many in his organization to take a new look at the manner in which their functions were using social media. From there Sapirman and his team saw the advantages of using social media for facilitating a two-way communication. Moreover, Sapirman comprehended the possibility for use of social media for compliance with those external to the company as well.
Internally Sapirman pointed to a tool called Chatter, which he uses similarly to those in Twitter engaging in a Tweet-up. He has created an internal company brand in the compliance space, using the moniker #dotherightthing, which trends in the company’s Chatter environment. He also uses this hashtag when he facilitates a Chatter Jam, which is a real-time social media discussion. He puts his compliance team into the event and they hold it at various times during the day so it can accessed by D&B employees anywhere in the world.
He said that he ‘seeds’ Chatter Jam so that employees are aware of the expectations and to engage in the discussion respectfully of others. When they began these sessions he also reminded employees that if they had specific or individual concerns they should bring them to Sapirman directly or through the hotline. However he does not have to make this admonition any more, as everyone seems to understand the ground rules. Now this seeding only relates to the topics that each Chatter Jam begins with going forward.
One of the concerns lawyers tend to have about the use of social media is with general and specific topics coming up on social media and the ill it may cause the organization. Sapirman believes that while such untoward situations can arise, if you make clear the ground rules about such discussions, these types of issues do not usually arise. That has certainly been the D&B experience.
Each employee uses their own names during these Chatter Jams so there is employee accountability and transparency as well. Sapirman said they further define each communication through a hashtag so that it can not only immediately be defined but also searched in the archives going forward. He provided the examples of specific regulatory issues and privacy. This branding also enhances the process going forward.
I asked Sapirman if he could point to any specific compliance initiatives that arose during or from these Chatter Jams. Sapirman emphasized that these events allow employees the opportunity to express their opinions about the compliance function and what compliance means to them in their organization. One of these discussions was around the company’s Code of Conduct. He said that employees wanted to see the words “Do The Right Thing” as the name of the Code of Conduct.
I inquired about D&B’s use of social media in connection with their third parties. Sapirman said that the company allows some of them access to its internal Chatter tools to facilitate direct communications. Further, these external contractors can connect with both Sapirman and the company through Twitter. He said that he is consistently communicating to the greater body of customers about the compliance initiatives or compliance reminders on what the D&B compliance function is doing and how it is going about doing them. He believes it is an important communications tool to make sure that he and his team are getting their compliance messages out there.
Sapirman also described using Chatter in a manner that sounded almost like Facebook and its new live video function. He said they can deliver short video vignettes about compliance to employees. The compliance function or the employee base can develop these.
All of the initiatives Sapirman described drove home to me three key insights. The first is how compliance, like society, is evolving, in many ways ever faster. As more millennials move into the workforce, the more your employee base will have used social media all their lives. Once upon a time, email was a revelatory innovation. Now if you are not communicating, you are falling behind the 8-ball. Employees expect their employers to act like and treat them as if this is the present day, not 1994 or even 2004.
The second is that these tools can go a long way towards enhancing your compliance program going forward. Recall the declination to prosecute that Morgan Stanley received from the Department of Justice (DOJ), back in 2012, when one of its Managing Directors had engaged in FCPA violations? One of the reasons cited by the DOJ was 35 email compliance reminders sent over 7 years, which served to bolster the annual FCPA training the recalcitrant Managing Director received. You can use your archived social media communications as evidence that you have continually communicated your company’s expectations around compliance. It is equally important that these expectations are documented (Read – Document, Document, and Document).
Finally, never forget the social part of social media. Social media is a two-way communication. Not only are you setting out expectations but also these tools allow you receive back communications from your employees. The D&B experience around the name change for its Code of Conduct is but one example. You can also see that if you have several concerns expressed it could alert you earlier to begin some detection and move towards prevention in your compliance program.
D&B actively uses social media to make more effective the company’s compliance regimeClick to tweet
This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Thomas R. Fox, 2016