Donna Boehme: The DOJ and Hui Chen define the future of compliance
Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 8:22AM
Donna Boehme in Guidance, Hui Chen

In the Justice Department's new guidance for compliance programs, which appeared online unannounced, undated and unsigned, one detects the experienced hand of the DOJ’s new Compliance Counsel, Hui Chen.

I am so impressed by the content of the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs that I suggest the DOJ rename this document: Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (This Is What True Compliance Subject Matter Expertise (SME) Looks Like)

The new guidance is great stuff and directly on target. In fact, if it weren’t already buried six feet under, I’d call this document the final, ultimate nail in the coffin of the old, flawed, and disfavored Compliance 1.0 model.  

That’s because the DOJ has again expressly endorsed the key attributes of the modern Compliance 2.0 model: empowerment, independence, a seat at the table, line-of-sight, resources, and, of course, true Compliance SME -- the important foundational element of a successful compliance function.

For those proponents still holding on to the table leg of Compliance 1.0, here are some specific excerpts from the new guidance that point the way to Compliance 2.0 -- the modern model for corporate compliance that recognizes compliance as a new, distinct SME and profession that is very different than Legal and needs to be positioned with empowerment, independence and authority in order to properly perform its job well:

As many in the compliance profession noted at the time, the DOJ's appointment of a true Compliance Subject Matter Expert in Hui Chen was an inspired and welcomed move. 

And now the new guidance is proof that the notion of true Compliance Subject Matter Expertise is coming full circle, as the DOJ’s experienced compliance SME begins infusing the agency’s policy, including its prosecution and settlement activities, with hard-earned compliance expertise that reflects the true reality that chief compliance officers experience on the ground.

This development should be the last word that the compliance profession has been yearning for, putting a long overdue end to the notion of compliance as a mere subset of the law department -- where compliance is expected to work solely through the mandate of the law department, without the positioning, independence, and empowerment to perform its job well. For this masterstroke in reality, we say thank you to DOJ and Hui Chen.

As more companies (especially their boards and other gatekeepers) begin to take this excellent guidance on board, we should be seeing more and more compliance functions and professionals being positioned to do their jobs well. This is the future of compliance, and that’s a good thing.


Donna Boehme is the Principal of Compliance Strategists LLC. She has advised a wide spectrum of private, public, governmental, academic and non-profit entities on organizational compliance and ethics. @DonnaCBoehme

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