Why Conduct a Compliance Assessment?
The U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines require all organizations to establish and maintain an effective ethics and compliance program. The Guidelines provide a strong incentive for employers to take proactive action to prevent unethical and illegal conduct. Specifically, organizations that can show that they have instituted an effective ethics and compliance program can greatly reduce the potential fines and other punishment that they might face. Indeed, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has written that:
“The potential fine range for a criminal conviction can be significantly reduced — in some cases up to 95 percent — if an organization can demonstrate that it had put in place an effective compliance and ethics program and that the criminal violation represented an aberration within an otherwise law-abiding community.”
Conversely, the absence of an effective compliance and ethics program may be used to increase the punishment the organization receives.
How to Conduct a Compliance Assessment
The Clear Law Institute’s team of attorneys and other experts can assist you conduct a compliance assessment appropriate to your organization. Clear Law will examine your industry, the states and countries where you operate, the types of workers you employ, previous complaints and violations, and other factors to help you assess your risks. We will then provide advice on how to prioritize the actions you should take to minimize your risks.
Ethics and Compliance Checkup
Clear Law will assess your organization’s progress against the standards set forth in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and other relevant statutes, cases and guidance. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines explicitly define the following seven minimally required elements of an “effective compliance and ethics program.”
- Establish standards and procedures to prevent and detect criminal conduct
- Place responsibility with the organization’s governing authority and high-level personnel to ensure that the organization’s compliance and ethics program is effective
- Preclude persons who have engaged in illegal or unethical actions from serving in high ranking positions
- Audit, monitor, and periodically evaluate the program’s effectiveness, and provide a way for employees to report concerns about illegal behavior without fear of retaliation
- Provide incentives to employees and agents to not act illegally or unethically, and discipline those who do
- Take reasonable steps to respond to misconduct and to prevent future misconduct
- Conduct effective training programs and otherwise disseminate information appropriate to such individuals’ respective roles and responsibilities
Code and Policy Review
The continually changing legal landscape requires organizations to continually update their Code of Conduct and other relevant ethical and legal policies. Clear Law’s team of nationally known attorneys and other compliance experts is available to review your Code of Conduct, employee handbook, harassment, anti-corruption and other policies and provide recommendations on:
- Content required, given your organization’s industry, states and countries where you operate, types of workers you employ, etc.
- How your code and policies compare with others in your industry and best practices
- How to format and effectively communicate your code and policies
- How to distribute your code and policies to all employees and track receipt
Learning Gap Analysis
Ethics and Compliance Training Required by Law
The Federal Sentencing Guidelines list training as one of the seven required elements of an “effective compliance and ethics program.” According to the Guidelines,
The organization shall take reasonable steps to communicate periodically and in a practical manner its standards and procedures, and other aspects of the compliance and ethics program, to [all personnel] by conducting effective training programs and otherwise disseminating information appropriate to such individuals’ respective roles and responsibilities.
If the plain language of the statute is not enough, the Commentary to the Amendments make clear that compliance and ethics training is required. Specifically, the Commentary states:
Section 8B2.1(b)(4) makes compliance and ethics training a requirement, and specifically extends the training requirement to the upper levels of an organization, including the governing authority and high-level personnel, in addition to all the organization’s employees…
In addition to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, various other laws, cases, and regulations require or encourage training on ethics and compliance topics.
Training Customized to your Organization and Each Employee’s Specific Needs
Compliance and ethics training is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Clear Law will ensure that your training is customized to the needs of each individual employee. First, Clear Law’s nationally known attorneys will create a risk analysis of your training needs. Specifically, they will examine your Ethics Code of Conduct and other relevant policies and look at factors such as your industry, the states where you have employees, and the job functions of your employees. Clear Law will then provide you an analysis of the topics on which you need to train employees and which employees need which type of training.