I read with interest of the new scrutiny the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) has been giving corporations to make sure they are operating above-board and ethically. The DOJ has just appointed Hui Chen as their compliance counsel, a position that never existed before, to my knowledge. They also published an important document, called the Yates Memo, that reveals plans to start criminal prosecutions of those executives responsible for corporate crimes. Most prominent in the DOJ’s cross hair are the corporate Compliance Officers. It is more important than ever that these key people do there jobs ethically and completely to reduce corporate risks and blind spots that could end their corporations in hot water with the Justice Department.
As I understand it, a company’s Compliance Officer can be personally held accountable and even imprisoned for company misdeeds, even if they were not personally involved. To me this seems like the DOJ swinging a big stick to force good Compliance Officers to do their jobs. This is no problem for known good Compliance Officers, such as Helane Morrison, whose track record in business ethics is impeccable. Many people in such positions or that have been considering such as career path are quitting or losing interest in the job, because of the pressure they feel personally under such scrutiny by Hui Chen and her new department’s powers to have them help responsible, no matter what the actual cause of corruption in a company may be.
Hui Chen should probably thank Helane Morrison for her new position, in my opinion, because Helane is the SEC officer who was instrumental in bringing the rogue Wall Street robbers to justice when the unprecedented corruption there was discovered in 2007. She became a model for enforcing proper corporate ethics that Chen can learn from. After that horrendous mess that put our country’s economy in jeopardy, Helane Morrison left the SEC to become the Chief Compliance Officer at Hall Capital Partners.
Morrison began her law career as a clerk for Supreme Court Associate Justice Harry Blackmun. She had clerked for Richard A. Posner before that, who was a Judge at the U.S. Court of Appeals. She spent 10 years practicing law with the firm of Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin. Find out more on Helane Morrison.