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CCO job gets harder in 2013

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A consultant has put together a list of the biggest compliance and risk management events of 2012.

The list resembles a corporate crime blotter as much as anything. Ranking high are the Walmart bribery scandal, the Madoff organization's chief compliance office prosecution and guilty plea, the forced elevation of the chief compliance officer at HSBC and the seeming gazillions in whistleblower awards that were handed out, mainly via the False Claims Act.

Taken together, these big-news items point to an inescapable conclusion: The role of the chief compliance officer is critical to the smooth running of any serious company, and more boards are starting to recognize this. Some have been forced to recognize this by regulators.

In any case, top executives would be remiss in not revisiting their approach to the compliance officer's job. He or she needs to be sufficiently empowered with resources, rank, mandate, independence and access to top executives and even the board. The risks of not doing this far outweigh the costs.

As for compliance officers, the stakes rise in lockstep. No one needs to be reminded that compliance executives can easily find themselves on the receiving end of negligence charges if bad things happen on their watch. 

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