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Career Resources Culture

How to Conduct a Corporate Compliance Audit

Compliance auditing is an integral part of corporate governance. However, with corporate hierarchies and business structures becoming so complex, the question arises of how to maintain an organization’s compliance with applicable laws? More importantly, how to conduct a successful corporate compliance audit that considers all compliance risk areas and appropriate policies?

The answer depends on various factors such as the ‘s compliance standards, legal action plans, and each department’s own compliance policies.

In this article, I’ll give a full breakdown of the ideal compliance audit, as well as the necessary steps to take when building a regulatory compliance program.

Let’s get into it.

What is a Corporate Compliance Audit [A 2021 Overview]

Basically, a compliance audit is an evaluation that finds out whether a is following both internal, as well as, state, and federal laws and regulations.

These laws could relate to multiple areas, such as recruitment, operational procedures, transactions, mergers, etc.

For example, healthcare providers have to adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that protects the data of patients from being lost or unfairly traded.

Generally, compliance audits are carried out by regulatory agencies that send over compliance auditors. External audits are usually performed after contacting the internal compliance department. 

On the other hand, internal audits are performed by the ‘s own compliance officers who act as internal auditors and observe all departments for compliance issue risk assessment. 

Different companies have different regulatory requirements. Auditing success really depends on their approach to the perfect corporate compliance program.

How to Conduct a Corporate Compliance Audit in 2021

The nature of the compliance audit function depends on the size, scope of the , as well as the industry in which it operates.

However, there are some steps that are constant across most audit types, internal or otherwise. 

Here is a step-by-step guide to performing a corporate compliance audit in 2021.

1. Hiring/Contacting the Auditor(s)

The first step is to contact the auditor and schedule the audit for a certain date.

Whether the auditor is a consultant or an in-house member of a compliance committee, they need to be kept at a figurative distance from the inner workings of the . this is to ensure an impartial evaluation. 

In case you’re contacting a consultant or external compliance team, you need to discuss the extent of the auditing needs to determine whether the individual fits the evaluation needs of the .

2. Building Legal Safeguards

Once you have hired or confirmed an auditor, they will send a proposal to either the ‘s legal counsel or the internal legal officer.

This is to remind them of instances where they may invoke legal privilege between the attorney and the client. 

The reason for this step is to alert the auditor of details that may result in financial losses for the , should they have to undergo corrective action due to noncompliance. 

3. Preliminary Meetings

After the legal necessities have been discussed, the auditors will either meet with the representatives or forward them a list of requirements for the audit.

In case the auditing party has confirmed the specific evaluation needs of the beforehand, they will prepare an auditing checklist and discuss the requirements with the concerned party.

This is done to allow management to get their affairs in order before the audit. It’s important to note that this level of allowance will mostly be given for internal audits, as government authorities usually don’t send repeated follow-ups for confirmation. 

4. Performing the Audit

Depending on the size and evaluation requirements of the , the auditor will then perform an audit via phone/video call, or in person.

In the case of a virtual assessment, the auditor will send various questionnaires and required document lists to the management, which they then supply as per the demands. 

When conducting an in-person audit, the auditor might do the above in addition to visiting the facility, conducting a visual inspection of the , and even interview the staff to gauge the prevalent code of conduct.

The extent of the evaluation is always up to the auditor and they may change the nature of the audit depending on the viability of each method.

5. Providing Audit Reports

Once they have covered all the relevant areas in the assessment, the auditor generates an audit report and presents it during a final meeting. 

If the compliance audit covers just the facility, then the turnaround time of the report should be 1-2 business days. Full-scale audits may take longer to conduct and generate reports for. 

During the final meeting, the auditor will discuss the compliance status of the with the senior management and any and all legal/regulatory risks the might face. Additionally, they might offer risk management assistance, in case the needs post-audit follow-up support.

Whether the compliance audit is purely internal or in accordance with government standards, management needs to ensure consistent compliance regardless. 

The leadership needs to develop effective internal controls and compliance functions, while also providing compliance training to all concerned parties to prevent noncompliance.   

7 Components of a Successful Corporate Compliance Audit

Compliance auditing can be a complex process, especially for bigger companies with multiple sites and a wide array of operations. 

Today, when companies are diversifying operations and have to comply with so many regulations, there is a chance that in an effort to be totally compliant, they may overlook one or more key legal areas. 

This creates the need for companies to upgrade their compliance methodology and implement a few best practices that will help them become more compliant. 

Here are some of the considerations all companies should make in order to become more compliant and pass any audit, no matter how detailed.

  • Knowledge of Operations: The management should know the extent of their operations and should know the legal risks they might face in case of noncompliance. Being honest about the compliance requirements will help the implement long-term compliance measures and contingency plans for any eventuality.
  • Active Compliance Management: It’s not enough to form an internal audit committee and leave compliance management to them. Instead, the management should take an active role in ensuring compliance across the board. Furthermore, they should develop compliance plans and provide continued compliance training for all employees.
  • Developing a Compliance Culture: Becoming compliant starts with adopting a culture that runs on the ideals of accountability and integrity. Management should instill values and a code of ethics that prevents noncompliant activities from the start. Furthermore, they should implement incentive programs for anyone who successfully follows the compliance culture.
  • Training for Compliance: The compliance requirements shouldn’t just exist within the operational level. Management needs to train even high-level employees on compliant practices when implementing operational changes or putting mergers/transactions into effect. Additionally, they should have an onboarding plan that includes dedicated compliance training for all employees.
  • Establishing a Compliance System: Compliance can’t be maintained by simply changing things around after a risk assessment session. There needs to an effective compliance management system in place to prevent, identify, and rectify compliance risks before they become full-fledged legal issues. 
  • Extensive Preparation: Auditing can involve both written questionnaires and in-person inspections, interviews, and observation. Gauge the evaluation needs of your and prepare in advance by selecting participants, setting expectations, and providing adequate reference criteria to meet the requirements. 
  • Setting Controls: Even if you have prepared for the audit, chances are it might reveal some vulnerabilities and legal risks. To counter that, develop an audit control plan with contingencies and risk-aversion strategies for each perceived risk. Additionally, conduct regular internal audits to identify risk areas in order to develop contingencies for them. 

Furthermore, companies should set up compliance management systems as per legal guidelines such as the United States Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other state-level regulations. This will help them prepare for more stringent audits by government entities.

Ending Note

A corporate compliance audit can help companies prevent serious legal repercussions from multiple authorities.

However, management should always look towards more proactive noncompliance-prevention methods such as periodic internal auditing and inspections. 

In conclusion, it’s better to breed a culture of active compliance and ensure that each employee adopts it as best as they can.

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Culture

What Does the Office of General Counsel Do?

Organizations of all sizes – especially those in the machinery of the government – should always be prepared to deal with legal hiccups, ensure corporate compliance, and minimize risk. To help it navigate through the tricky waters of law, an organization may have a department known as the “office of general counsel.”

But what is an office of general counsel? And exactly is it responsible for?

Whether you’re a law student or attorney considering this career path, or someone who’s just curious, keep reading. In this article, we’ll explore the answers to those questions.

Let’s get started.

What is the Office of General Counsel (OGC)?

The office of general counsel (OGC) is a name given to a department within an organization (usually government or military) that’s mainly responsible for providing legal advice, litigation, ensuring compliance, and overseeing large business transactions and/or procurement. 

The OGC of an organization usually reports to the CEO (or any other chief position at the top – depending on the organization).

An OGC is run by a general counsel/chief counsel/chief legal officer, who supervises a team that may comprise of a deputy general counsel, associate general counsels, managers, interns, and more.

In the United States, almost every government agency has an office of general counsel that provides legal services to it. You can learn more about different departments on the official website of the United States government – USA.gov.

The Duties and Responsibilities of the Office of General Counsel

You can probably already tell that the exact set of responsibilities of the offices of general counsel vary from organization to organization.

There’s a lot that comes with being the legal advisors of an organization. That being said, it is possible to generalize everything and broadly cover the requirements of most employers.

Here’s what an office of general counsel typically does:

Legal Compliance

This is a no-brainer. 

The primary responsibility of any office of general counsel is to make sure that the organization complies with all the applicable special and general law. This includes state/local, federal, and even international laws.

Depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of work/business of the organization, this could entail keeping in mind hundreds of statutes and regulations to ensure compliance. 

For instance, the office of general counsel is responsible for ensuring compliance with different areas of employment law, such as equal employment opportunity act, the “No FEAR act,” and COVID-related laws, among many others.

In any case, the in-house counsel has to advise directors, other key decision-makers, and the human resources department on practices and strategies that should be executed in accordance with the law. 

Litigation

In addition to ensuring that the law is followed, the office of general counsel is also responsible for advising the organization regarding its legal rights.

The department plays a critical role in protecting the intellectual property and other sensitive information of its organization.

And if an external party takes unlawful advantage of the organization in any way, the department takes the appropriate measures to get compensation.

When the organization has full rights to take legal action against a party, the office of general counsel, after getting the approval of the senior management, will proceed with the litigation.

Risk Management

Risk management, as the name suggests, refers to the practice of anticipating risks and planning for circumstances with negative legal implications.

This is one of the primary responsibilities of any office of general counsel, regardless of the organization or the sector.

Risk management is all about being proactive in order to mitigate losses. 

It entails keeping in mind the various laws, the way the organization operates, and its risk tolerance, and creating strategies to avoid or deal with different legal issues (such as tort).

The office of the general counsel works closely with the upper management to make all of the above happen.

Business Transactions

The transactions that we make on a day-to-day basis as individuals may not always be significant.

However, when it comes to a large-scale business transaction, the in-house legal counsel (if any) may be asked to get involved to make sure everything goes smoothly.

A business transaction can be anything, from the procurement of different assets to even game-changing business mergers.

Some examples include the acquisition of real-estate, contracting services, and purchasing special equipment, among others.

In this context, the general counsel is (usually) responsible for setting up contracts, advising the other management, and negotiating with the other party. Again, the exact responsibilities may be different in your organization.

Policy Analysis

The legal counsel team can also be responsible for overseeing the internal rulemaking of an organization.

This could involve working closely with the board of directors to create company bylaws, making sure that the internal policies are in-line with state laws, and advising on better practices.

Duties of Actual Offices of General Counsel in Different Organizations

As implied earlier, the exact duties and responsibilities of the office of general counsel aren’t universal. Sure – they can be generalized to some extent, but at the end of the day, an employee from the internal legal team of NASA may have a completely different set of responsibilities from someone belonging to the US Department of Justice.

To illustrate, let’s take a look at the actual responsibilities of the office of general counsel in different organizations:

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a government agency that’s tasked with supporting small business owners and entrepreneurs in the United States.

It does this by connecting business owners with lenders and providing counseling. 

The office of general counsel at SBA is mainly responsible for:

  • Providing legal representation to SBA in proceedings
  • Advising the administration regarding statutes, regulations, and other forms of law
  • Overseeing the SBA’s internal ethics program

Additionally, the OGC at SBA oversees all legal matters to ensure compliance.

US Department of State’s Office of Inspector General (OIG)

The US Department of State is responsible for practicing the foreign policies of the United States and maintaining relationships with other nations.

As per the Inspector General Act of 1978, the department has an office of inspector general (OIG). The OIG is responsible for conducting audits, evaluations, and investigations in programs relating to the US Department of State.

The OIG, in turn, has an office of general counsel that’s responsible for:

  • Advising the OIG employees on ethics-related issues
  • Reviewing all the investigative, audit, and inspection reports created by the OIG
  • Overseeing OIG activities to ensure everything is in accordance with the law

Furthermore, the OGC also handles personnel issues with legal implications.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

NASA needs no introduction.

The office of general counsel at NASA is responsible for:

  • Interpreting general, local, and international law for the administration
  • Overseeing contracts, grants, and other agreements
  • Ensuring compliance throughout the department

Additionally, the OGC is tasked with resolving issues related to intellectual property, such as patents, copyright licensing, dealing with international entities, etc.

Samford University

Offices of general counsel aren’t limited to government agencies.

Even private entities can have internal departments for legal counsel. However, they’re typically not as huge as the ones found in government organizations.

Here’s what Samford University’s OGC does:

  • Overseeing business transactions of Samford University
  • Making sure that the institution complies with all state and federal laws
  • Providing legal representation to Samford University when needed
  • Providing insurance and risk management

As of now, the OGC at Samford consists of two individuals – a general counsel and a university attorney.

How to Join an Office of the General Counsel

If providing corporate legal counsel is your career goal, you can split your roadmap into the following two broad phases:

Get the Right Education and Experience

This is a no-brainer. First and foremost, you need to make sure that you’re qualified to practice law.

If you’re still in high school, do some research to find out how much education you need to start practicing in your state. In most states, it takes 7 years (4 years of college, followed by an additional 3 years of law school).

Apply in a Sector/Business That Attracts You

Since law is applicable everywhere, the next step is to narrow down your focus and decide the sector and the type of employer you want to work for.

From the few examples above, you can see that you have quite a few options to choose from.

Consider the type of laws you’re attracted to, evaluate the difference in compensation packages, and apply for open positions.

If you’re a fresh graduate, keep an eye out for graduate programs.

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Culture Job Descriptions

General Counsel Job Description: Roles and Responsibilities

Budget cuts and administrative hurdles aside, there are hundreds of local, general, and international laws that corporations and government departments need to be aware of. The general counsel role mainly exists to help organizations understand those laws and steer clear of legal issues. However, the general counsel job description entails a lot more than that.

If you’re an employer in search of someone capable to lead your company’s legal department, or an aspiring candidate whose goal is to become a GC, keep reading. 

In this guide, we’ll provide a detailed general counsel job description template, the average general counsel salary, and the roadmap of landing this role (or what to look for in a candidate, if that’s your goal).

Let’s jump right in.

Who is a General Counsel?

A general counsel – also known as a chief legal officer (CLO) and sometimes corporate counsel – is the chief lawyer of an organization. They are seasoned attorneys who are usually hired as full-time or contractual employees by organizations to provide expert legal counsel to the senior management, handle all legal matters of the organization, and also lead the legal department (office of general counsel). 

In a typical hierarchy, they report directly to the chief executive officer of the company. 

Due to the nature of their operations, banks, insurance companies, academic institutions, oil/power companies, and government departments usually need general counsel to guide their corporate governance.

In the United States, a few decades ago, general counsels only handled administrative work related to legal matters. However, over the years, the job title evolved, and today, they provide 360-degree legal services to their employers.

A general counsel doesn’t have to be an employee of the organization. They can also serve organizations as external attorneys, in which case, they’re referred to as “outside counsel.”

What’s the Purpose of Having a General Counsel?

We now have a rough idea of the general counsel job description.

But what exactly is the purpose of hiring an attorney?

Generally speaking, a general counsel can help with the following:

  • Compliance with the Law – depending on your nature of business, industry, and location, there could be hundreds of laws applicable to your organization. A general counsel can help you understand, adapt, and adhere to those laws. 
  • Risk Mitigation – even if you comply with all the laws, businesses are always at risk of getting slapped with lawsuits, some of which can threaten their very existence. A great general counsel will consider these risks, create strategies to mitigate them, and step up to provide legal representation when needed.
  • Business Performance – last but not least, considering the above, a general counsel can have a direct lasting impact on the long-term business performance.

All in all, having an attorney on your team can go a long way in protecting you from legal landmines.

General Counsel Job Description

With the basics out of the way, let’s dive into the specifics of a typical general counsel job description. 

The information that we’re about to share has been finalized after analyzing general counsel JDs on various online job boards. Your organization’s requirements may vary.

Job Brief [Template]

If you’re an employer, you can use the following general counsel job description template, adjust it (if necessary), and share it away on different platforms:

“We are looking for a competent attorney to join our organization as a General Counsel on full-time/part-time basis. The ideal candidate must have over 4 years of experience in a law firm, and have ample experience in corporate compliance

You should have a knack for leadership, are proactive, think long-term, and have sound business knowledge. As our company’s general counsel, you’ll be responsible for furnishing expert legal advice to the upper-management, drafting and reviewing contracts, providing legal representation, liaising with the outside counsel, and leading the in-house legal team.

From time to time, you will also be responsible for negotiating and overseeing large business deals, including mergers and acquisitions. Furthermore, you’ll also oversee corporate governance to ensure legal compliance.

If you’re up for the challenge, apply with your up-to-date resume and a cover letter explaining why you’re the perfect fit for this role.”

Typical Duties and Responsibilities

The actual duties and responsibilities of a general counsel will vary from industry to industry.

However, it is still possible to generalize the job description to some extent. Here’s what a GC usually does:

Provide Legal Advice to the Senior Management

As mentioned above, depending on what the organization does and where it’s from, there could be hundreds of statutes and regulations that could dictate how it operates.

There’s only so much that the board of directors can remember. A general counsel is therefore responsible for helping them adhere to the laws, reminding them of their legal rights, and conducting legal research on behalf of the organization.

They have to work closely with the heads of departments, including, but not limited to, human resources, engineering, design, procurement, marketing, sales, and finance.

In short, whenever the company needs legal advice, they turn towards the general counsel.

Provide Legal Representation to the Organization When Required

Another thing that a general counsel is usually responsible for is providing legal protection. 

Depending on the type of organization, they’ll protect the intellectual property, advise management on adhering to various safety, environmental, and copyright laws, and provide legal representation if and when an entity files a lawsuit against the company/department.

Ensure Compliance with Corporate Governance Law

Corporate governance refers to the systems, rules/policies, and structures by which a company operates and governs itself. All of this is mainly controlled and influenced by the company’s board of directors.

There are certain laws in place that ensure corporations operate in ways that aren’t detrimental to the environment, safety of their employees, and privacy of their customers. Furthermore, there are certain laws that prevent fraud, bribery, and tax evasion. 

Some laws vary from state to state. To ensure that the corporation complies with all of the applicable laws, the general counsel works with the board of directors to devise legal strategies and compliance programs. 

Manage Risk

Risk management is a crucial part of a general counsel’s job. 

Running a corporation, agency, or some other government department isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

At all times, you’re exposed to innumerable legal risks. To ensure that you navigate around these legal landmines, and create game plans for when you walk into one, the general counsel is needed.

Oversee Business Transactions and Contractor Agreements

There are certain business transactions and contractor agreements that warrant the involvement of the company’s attorney.

Examples include acquisition of real-estate, merger of companies, purchasing rights to a certain technology or intellectual property, etc.

The general counsel ensures that the transaction/deal is in compliance with the law, prepares legal documents, and negotiates better terms on behalf of their employer.

Lead the Office of General Counsel/In-House Department

Finally, if the organization has a formal office of general counsel/in-house legal team, the general counsel is considered the department head.

They’re responsible for interviewing and hiring candidates, setting expectations, allocating resources, and conducting performance reviews.

Furthermore, when needed, the GC also liaises with the outside counsel for their legal services.

Requirements for Becoming General Counsel [The Roadmap]

Creating a comprehensive general counsel job description is just one part of the challenge. The other part is ensuring that you hire the right person for the job.

Below, we’ve shared the credentials, experience, and skills found in every successful candidate.

Academic Requirement

This is a prerequisite. The candidate applying for the GC role must have 4 years of college education, along with a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an American Bar Association accredited law school (which is a 3-year degree).

Furthermore, the candidate must pass the state bar exam.

Legal Experience

This may vary from employer to employer, but candidates are usually required to have at least 4 years of experience at a law firm.

Skills Needed

Lastly, a great general counsel needs to have strong analytical and interpersonal skills. These include:

  • Leadership – a general counsel needs to have a charismatic persona, should have high emotional intelligence (EQ), and just be generally convincing.
  • Communication Skills – they have to work closely with various departments, communicate the law, and set expectations. Therefore, strong written and verbal communications skills are must.
  • Critical Thinking – a general counsel needs to be good at decision making. And to do that, they should be able to think with a clear head. 

Additionally, the general counsel must have great management skills, including time management, compliance planning, and delegation.

Final Thoughts

All things considered, a general counsel is a pretty serious position, which, if not filled by the right profile, could be devastating for the employer.

When creating the general counsel job description, make sure to communicate your expectations clearly, look for attorneys with great track records, and run extensive background checks before you hire anyone.

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Career Resources Culture

Best Corporate Compliance Programs to Initiate in 2021

Over the years, corporate compliance evolved from simply reporting specific data to government agencies. In the high-risk environment of today’s world, it warrants setting formal policies, extensive training, and monitoring to ensure regulatory compliance – otherwise known as a corporate compliance program.

The two underlying goals of any compliance program are the same – to promote ethical behavior throughout the company and stay compliant with the law. But while moving to the future, which areas do corporations need to focus on specifically?

In this article, we’ll talk about the corporate compliance programs to initiate in 2021, along with the ingredients that make an effective compliance program.

Let’s get started.

What is a Corporate Compliance Program?

Before jumping into the specific programs, a crash-course on corporate compliance programs, and why they’re essential, might be useful.

A corporate compliance program refers to a formal system through which a company ensures that its employees and external business partners behave and operate in accordance with the laws that apply to them.

A company’s compliance program consists of formal corporate policies for internal control, training programs, monitoring systems, and escalation and remediation protocols. 

The company’s chief compliance officer is usually responsible for creating, managing, and monitoring its corporate compliance programs and ensuring that all relevant stakeholders – board of directors, employees, and third party entities respect and follow the established code of conduct.   

Why Corporate Compliance Programs are Needed

Establishing and running formal programs may seem like an unnecessary use of resources to the inexperienced eye. 

While the definition of an “effective corporate compliance” program may vary from company to company, all corporations have to employ some level of compliance efforts to protect them from various risks.

These efforts can be as simple as only creating compliance policies and regulations, to as elaborate as having training programs, using compliance software, and having internal compliance audits.

In any case, with a corporate compliance program, you can:

Protect Your Company’s Reputation

An obvious reason to have a compliance program is to protect your organization from legal action. 

However, lawsuits aren’t the only things you should be worried about. Another potential risk of non-compliance is losing your company’s credibility/reputation.

For instance, if the board of directors has a history of compliance issues, it can get in the way of potential profitable business deals, drive talent to seek employment with your competitors, and more.

Protect the Company from Legal Action

An obvious risk of non-compliance is legal action from prosecutors.

Having a corporate compliance program can protect you in two ways:

  • With an effective program, you can significantly cut down on chances of non-compliance.
  • If an employee of your organization is charged with non-compliance (such as bribery), you can protect your corporation by showing the prosecutor that the accused broke the law despite your company’s efforts to educate, train, and prevent them.

Having a compliance program doesn’t eliminate the possibility of non-compliance. But it can help reduce it.

Protect the Company from Monetary Penalties

Last but not least, a compliance program, by keeping your employees in line, can protect your organization from hefty monetary penalties.

In the United States, there are several laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), Fair Labor Standards Act, etc., that ensure responsible and fair practices from businesses. Strict disciplinary action is taken against a business that doesn’t comply with these laws.

Corporate Compliance Programs to Initiate in 2021

In the digital age where transparency is crucial, it’s more important than ever to invest in corporate compliance programs.

Having a solid ethics program is a must for everyone. But what risk areas do compliance officers need to consider moving to 2021?

Depending on recent events and the current climate, here are a few corporate compliance programs you should consider initiating in 2021 (these can either exist as separate initiatives or as components of one central program – it’s completely up to you):

Non-Intimidation

There are many labor laws that prevent the leadership of organizations from exploiting or wrongfully intimidating their employees.

A relevant example includes the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, under which, certain employers are required to provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to their employees if they meet certain conditions. 

If an employee is eligible for leave, the employer must comply and cannot give threats.

Another example is the No FEAR Act, which applies to government agencies.

Considering all of the above, it’s important to have a special program that trains the senior management from breaking these laws.

Non-Harassment 

Workplace harassment, whether physical, verbal, or visual, stems from a lack of ethics and general decency.

Employees can file for formal administrative complaints against their employers with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

To prevent that from happening, a special non-harassment program that raises awareness, trains employees, and establishes regulations can go a long way in ensuring compliance. 

Anti-Corruption

Laws like the FCPA exist to prevent businesses from using underhanded tactics (such as bribing foreign officials) to achieve strategic goals.

In case you don’t already have one, you should consider initiating an anti-corruption program in 2021.

Such a program could involve monitoring the corporate expense accounts of employees belonging to senior management, and questioning them about any suspicious expenses. 

Whistleblower Program

One thing that truly helps enforce a corporate compliance program is a human firewall. 

When employees report unlawful activities, they should ideally report them to the concerned internal department. However, most of the times, they’re afraid of the consequences, especially when the person they have to report is a senior executive. 

For that reason, you must have a solid whistleblower program in place, one that encourages employees to come forward and has a hotline for confidential reporting.

Third-Party Due Diligence

As mentioned earlier, corporate compliance doesn’t only apply to the employees of an organization. Third-party partners, such as suppliers, retailers, contractors, consultants, and attorneys should also be in full compliance with the laws.

If they’re not, it would look bad for your company and possibly result in prosecution. 

Because of that, you need to have a third-party due diligence program that screens business partners, informs them about their compliance obligations, and educates them about the company’s policies.

Setting Up Effective Corporate Compliance Programs

In most cases, businesses are free to set their compliance policies and regulations however they like, as long as they follow the law.

But in order to create a successful compliance program, there are certain factors that must be considered. These include:

 

  • Clear Objectives

 

First and foremost, you need to set clear objectives for your corporate compliance program.

It all starts with a thorough risk assessment, which involves looking at the various compliance risks for your organization.

Once you identify said risks, devise programs around them, and set quarterly, annual, or 2-year goals to track the effectiveness of your program.

 

  • Formal Training Program

 

To establish a culture of compliance, you need some form of compliance training.

Ideally, a training program should be formal, with its own goals, and administered through a proper learning management system (or at least documented). 

You can share mandatory training modules and arrange workshops. 

To ensure optimal performance, you can even send your chief compliance officer and other senior leaders to a compliance conference.

 

  • Monitoring

 

A close evaluation of corporate compliance programs is necessary to ensure you’re not wasting potentially thousands of dollars.

For that reason, you should have a system for collecting and refining data relevant to the objectives of your corporate compliance program.

Furthermore, create an internal audit committee, responsible for auditing and ensuring program effectiveness.

 

  • Escalation and Remediation

 

You just created policies, administered training, and set up a method for analyzing the program’s effectiveness – what’s next?

The only thing left to do is to create systems for escalation and remediation.

Escalation refers to proactively looking for any red-flags within the system.

Remediation, on the other hand, refers to taking appropriate steps to address and mitigate any potential risk.

Final Thoughts

Laws, regulations, and disciplinary measures are set in place for a reason. 

Aside from the ethical obligation, businesses must comply with all the applicable laws to protect their employees, ensure fair practices, and avoid devastating monetary losses in the form of fines.

In 2021, having programs that promote safe environments for the employees, stop corruption, and screen strategic partners will help win the race.

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Career Path Culture Job Descriptions

What Is General Counsel? Definition and Examples

With so much legal information becoming available in the public domain, maintaining corporate compliance has become somewhat easier. However, there’s still the issue of correct legal decision-making at the right time, aka the legal counsel role. That brings up the question of what is general counsel, and whether the general counsel position is of any real help to modern executive teams.

Every new and established company knows that the legal department is just as important (if not more) as risk management and successful business decisions. 

The legal expertise they lend to the compliance management team helps prevent failure to comply and other serious legal risks.

If you’re wondering what a general counsel resume should look like, keep reading. In this article, I’ll describe the role of general counsel, and give some examples of the legal services they provide to senior management at companies. 

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What is General Counsel? [An Overview]

Simply put, the general counsel is in-house lawyers that provide legal guidance to companies (in the United States) for better corporate governance. 

These professionals are usually at the head of the company’s law department.

Also called Chief Legal Officers (CLOs), they act as business partners and regulators towards the company leadership. 

Generally speaking, it is a high-profile position, with some counsel working directly with business leaders and senior stakeholders (vice presidents, CEOs, CFOs, etc.). 

General Counsel Roles and Responsibilities

Depending on the size and scope of the company, as well as the individual’s skill set, the general counsel could have a multitude of responsibilities. 

They could be the sole regulatory authority within the company, or they could have an assisting role in all legal matters. 

Whether the individual is in-house counsel or outside counsel, there are some responsibilities that all chief legal officers have to undertake.

These are:

  • Legal Advice: The general counsel is the primary source of advice pertaining to all decisions and processes involving regulations and legal decisions. Corporate counsel is often called upon to provide the best course of action against legal issues.
  • Legal Affairs Management: The company’s internal lawyers ensure that all company operations are in accordance with local, state, and federal laws. They also make sure that management upholds ethical and nondiscriminatory practices. 
  • Conducting Legal Research: The management needs to make certain decisions that involve thorough research into in-effect regulations and laws. The general counsel performs this research and devises the best solutions within the legal sphere.
  • Drafting and Filing Forms: Being the primary legal authority, the general counsel is responsible for analyzing, drafting, and filings all licensing forms and various statutory filings.
  • Intellectual Property Management: The general counsel is responsible for maintaining a record of all the intellectual property belonging to the company, as well as ensuring its safe and legal usage by licensed parties only. 
  • Examining/Drafting Agreements: The head legal officers are responsible for examining any and all agreement documents between the company and other entities. They also draft the majority of these agreements, after covering all legal bases and loopholes.
  • Ensuring Compliance: Being the head of the legal team, the general counsel ensures that the company operates in accordance with all the relevant laws and regulations pertaining to human resources, employment law, and various public policies. 

Additionally, all general counsel officers liaise with external legal resources on all legal work, including acquisitions, mergers, financial transactions, and operational expansion. 

What is General Counsel: Job Examples

The legal profession has experienced an onset of diversity around the world. Lawyers can now function in various capacities and law firms have begun to offers a diverse range of services.

The same is true for anyone working as general counsel for a company or firm of any size. 

Here are some professional examples of general counsel jobs. 

  1. In-House Chief Legal Officer

In-house legal department heads are responsible for overseeing all legal proceedings and functioning in a primary strategic capacity within the company when it comes to legal matters.

​Their individual responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Co-developing operational strategy with the senior management and board of directors.
  • ​Drafting all legal documents and paperwork.
  • Perform due diligence in all acquisition and expansion activities.
  • Maintain operational compliance as per all relevant laws and regulations.

Additionally, the general counsel handles all dealings with external legal counsel such as third-party litigation experts. 

  1. General HR and Legal Counsel

This branch of the legal counsel tree leans more towards the human resource aspect of company-wide jurisprudence. 

In an HR capacity, the general counsel is responsible for:

  • Managing the legal requirements of employee recruitment, onboarding, and dismissal.
  • Developing compensation policies along with HR leadership.
  • Providing technical training to HR staff on proper procedures.
  • Investigating ethical violations, conflicts of interest, fraud, etc.

Furthermore, the general counsel ensures that all employee-specific policies are developed as per the state and federal employment law. 

  1. Senior Regulatory Counsel

A large part of the general counsel’s job is maintaining regulatory compliance in all aspects of company operations. 

The regulatory counsel role expands this further and focuses on regulatory compliance, including tasks such as:

  • Implementing prevalent regulatory codes and practices.
  • Addressing the compliance requirements of specific regional and overseas territories.
  • Drafting and circulating operational codes throughout the company.
  • Monitoring all operations while keeping a record of any additional expansions.

In addition to this, regulatory counsel ensures that every new regulation is implemented in a timely manner throughout the company. 

  1. General Compliance Counsel

Similar to the regulatory counsel, the general counsel for compliance ensure complete adherence to current employment and operation laws.

Their individual responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Researching current applicable laws on companies and strategize ways to operate within them.
  • Maintaining detailed records of operational procedures, recruitment, etc.
  • Addressing legal concerns of federal and state regulatory bodies.
  • Drafting and negotiating administrative rules, licenses, and nonpossessory rights (easements).

Furthermore, senior compliance officers develop company policies pertaining to proper resource usage and disposal, as per the laws within their territory. 

  1. General Counsel – Senior VP

While the general counsel role is inherently leadership-oriented, some companies enable chief legal officers to hold the position of senior vice president, with a focus on legal policies. 

This means that they will serve as company leadership, while also helping develop business strategy and defining key objectives.

In this capacity, their responsibilities can include, but are not limited to:

  • Overseeing all major and minor acquisitions and strategic developments.
  • Addressing high-level disputes between company leadership on matters related to company direction. 
  • Working with stakeholders to align company vision with legal guidelines.
  • Assist the company in overcoming hurdles related to large-scale change or transition into a new business model.  

Generally speaking, these officers operate in a similar capacity to assistant vice presidents of other departments, only with the company’s legal interests being at the forefront of their responsibilities. 

It’s important to note that these jobs are most prevalent in the United States. Furthermore, all of these are recognized by the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC)

Becoming the Ideal General Counsel Officer

The chief legal officer is a role that’s associated with business law. 

Candidates looking to work as general counsel within a company must first take their bar exam and become bona fide legal professionals.

After that, they need at least 5 years of practical experience working in a corporate legal capacity (either as junior legal officers or assistant general counsel).

Once they have accumulated sufficient experience, candidates can apply for seniority within their host company, or apply for the position elsewhere.

Aside from the general qualifications, there are tons of accredited certifications that legal professionals can get, to better qualify for the position. 

These courses can not only broaden the candidate’s knowledge base, but they can prepare the individual for more specific job roles than any degree can. 

Final Thoughts

Becoming a member of the legal fraternity is much easier today due to the plethora of online certifications and courses you can take for extra knowledge.

This additional knowledge and expertise can help legal professionals not only get a job in corporate counsel but move up to the CLO position. 

In conclusion, it’ll be hugely beneficial for all legal officers to expand their professional horizons and instill as many diverse legal skills as they can for greater career success.

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Chief Compliance Officer Role and Responsibilities

Every organization faces some level of risk due to several regulations and compliance standards. It’s imperative to ensure you’re completely compliant. That’s where compliance officers come in, and the chief compliance officer role manages them all. 

The chief compliance officer role and responsibilities tend to vary depending on the industry and organization. For example, corporate compliance tends to work differently than federal compliance. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the chief compliance officer role and their responsibilities. 

Who is the Chief Compliance Officer? 

The chief compliance officer (CCO) monitors, oversees, and manages compliance issues and matters within their organization. 

The chief compliance officer makes sure that their organization is taking care of its regulatory compliance and regulatory requirements. Furthermore, they have to ensure that all organizational employees are in adherence to corporate policies and procedures. 

The compliance officer position was initially needed in heavily regulated industries such as healthcare and the financial services industry. However, other companies followed suit during the 2000s accounting scandals. During that time, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was enforced, along with recommendations from the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The chain of events eventually led to thousands of CCOs being appointed in across the United States. 

As a result, thousands of organizations in hubs such as New York, San Francisco, and other major cities created compliance departments. The compliance department works side by side with the legal department and senior management. Usually, the compliance department has several compliance officers working with different departments. 

At the top, the chief compliance officer manages all the other compliance officers while also assisting in business administration. 

The Chief Compliance Officer Role 

The chief compliance officer of an organization or agency is responsible for managing compliance risk, developing company policies for compliance, and monitoring compliance issues. 

Usually, the CCO role is on the executive level. Therefore, the chief compliance officer reports directly to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In some companies, the chief compliance officer also works with and reports to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Risk Officer (CRO), and the Chief Information Officer (CIO). The chief compliance officer may also have to work with senior management and report to the board of directors in some companies. 

Each company’s compliance function determines its relation to the overall market and the government. Therefore, it’s imperative to fulfill all compliance requirements and legal requirements to maintain a good image with the regulatory bodies. 

As a result, some chief compliance officers tend to keep good relations with the regulators and compliance professionals. 

Each industry has different regulatory bodies, and there are different regulations for each organizational department. For example, the human resources department would have different compliance issues than the finance department. 

It’s the chief compliance officer’s job to make sure that all organizational departments are implementing the compliance program. The chief compliance officer role also involves doing compliance reviews to minimize compliance risk. 

However, the chief compliance officer can be privy to a conflict of interest. Conflicts of interest usually occur when you have a duty of implementing compliance plans, but it stands to hurt the organization somehow. The chief compliance officer has an ethical duty to always report any compliance issues. Especially if they’re part of the in-house compliance department. At that point, their primary directive is risk assessments and mitigation. 

In any case, CCOs have to maintain a certain level of confidentiality when working with organizations. 

Responsibilities of a Chief Compliance Officer 

Every chief compliance officer has to work in several capacities in different organizations. The responsibilities and duties mostly depend on the organization and the industry. For example, a chief compliance officer in the finance industry would have more responsibilities with tons of financial regulations, internal policies, internal audits, and other compliance requirements. 

In any case, the following responsibilities, tasks, and duties are what the typical chief compliance officer role entails. 

  • Reports directly to the executives, including the CEO, CFO, CIO, and the CRO relaying all news and updates related to compliance activities. 
  • Explain and define a certain level of knowledge of compliance standards that each employee should have in various departments. 
  • Help relevant parties understand certain applicable laws, such as the GDPR Data Privacy Regulations. 
  • Develop an annual compliance work plan, along with the general counsel that reflects the organizational approach. 
  • Revise existing compliance plans if there is any change in regulations, organizational direction, or any other relevant reason. 
  • Oversee the compliance program and plan and manage the internal controls. 
  • Work with the compliance and legal teams to ensure they’re on track and working efficiently. 
  • Provide guidance, advice, and training to all the departments regarding relevant laws, rules, regulations, and compliance standards. 
  • Read, review, and analyze compliance reviews to figure out if there are any compliance issues. After figuring out the issues, develop workable and effective solutions to counter the problem. 
  • Develop and manage risk assessments with the risk management department or the risk officer. Evaluate potential compliance issues, take part in risk management, and ensure there are no long-term problems. 

The responsibilities, tasks, and duties listed above are common for most chief compliance officers. However, you will find that some organizations will have industry-specific responsibilities too. Furthermore, each company tends to also have some organizational changes. 

How to Become a Chief Compliance Officer 

The chief compliance officer role is one of the highest positions in an organization next to the executives. According to Glassdoor, the average chief compliance officer salaries in the United States can be summed up to $149,943. Furthermore, the typical salary range for the chief compliance officer salary is between $83,000 and $218,000, with the higher range offered in cities such as New York and San Francisco. 

Considering that the chief compliance officer salary is very high compared to the national average, it’s safe to say that the position is essential. However, the salary also tends to change according to different industries and organizations. For example, chief compliance officers in a company in the financial sector would be paid more due to additional responsibilities and expectations. Alternatively, a CCO in a retail company may not be paid equally. 

The chief compliance officer role is an executive role where they work directly with the executives or with senior management. In any case, it can take years to reach a level where you can become a chief compliance officer. 

You have to start out as a compliance officer, risk officer, or an attorney. You can then make your way up to management and to the executive level. 

However, it’s best to have a Juris Doctor degree or a master’s degree in a related field. Along with years of experience, you need to be able to show your background that needs to be entirely law-related. 

You should always brush up on industry-specific laws, regulations, rules, and compliance standards. It’s crucial to have all the necessary information at the back of your mind as the chief compliance officer. 

Try and keep a good relationship with the State Bar Association, regulators, and the various regulatory bodies. Most importantly, practice compliance in an ethical way. 

Understanding the Chief Compliance Officer Role to Become a Great CCO 

Becoming a great chief compliance officer requires you to have a complete understanding of the law and compliance standards. It’s crucial to remember and understand the chief compliance officer role and all the responsibilities that come with it. 

Most importantly, you need to rack up a lot of experience to justify your worth. It’s best to focus your career on any one industry so you can learn as much as you can. Staying in the same industry helps you understand compliance better while giving you plenty of helpful resources. 

The working experience will eventually let you develop excellent compliance programs and policies for your organization. You’ll also be able to develop working relationships with various regulatory bodies, regulators, and other stakeholders. 

Furthermore, it’s also best to have a good relationship with other chief compliance officers, general counsel, and compliance officers. You can employ their help in drafting recommendations, advice, and developing compliance plans. 

Most importantly, it’s critical to avoid any conflicts of interest. It’s important to work ethically and in the interest of the organization that hired you.