by Rebecca Walker and Jeff Kaplan
Investigations are one of the more difficult and riskier activities of an C&E program. Poorly-conducted investigations can create serious legal risks for an organization. In addition, the mishandling of investigations can damage the way in which employees perceive C&E programs, in particular where the report was initially made to the C&E department, through a hotline or otherwise. The mishandling of C&E investigations can corrode the sense of organizational justice and the culture of ethics and compliance at an organization. In short, C&E-related investigations are a serious business, and assessing them is therefore an important component of assessing an C&E program.
Assessing an investigations process is often complicated by the fact that investigations at many organizations are conducted by a number of functions, and privilege concerns can further complicate any review. In addition, there are a large number of facets of the investigations process that must be reviewed in order comprehensively to assess that process, which further increases the level of complexity. When reviewing investigations procedures, some of the more helpful areas of inquiry include the following:
The questions above should be asked not only regarding written protocols and processes (e.g., is there a written protocol governing how investigations are assigned?) but also regarding how an organization’s investigations process is implemented in practice (e.g., are investigations in fact assigned in a timely and reasonable manner?). This can require discussions of sensitive information, and the assessor must be cautious regarding privilege issues and regarding how the assessment is documented.
Ultimately, an effective assessment of an investigations process seeks to determine whether the process possesses three critical attributes:
While perhaps obvious, we note that the above is merely a sampling of areas to cover when assessing C&E investigations. C&E investigations can be complicated, risky and critically important to an organization’s C&E program. As is true for all areas of a compliance program, periodic review and enhancement are therefore essential.
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The first time I saw Kristy Grant-Hart she put on a show about magic compliance dust and then brought the audience to reality by breaking the news that there is
In our years of assessing compliance and ethics (C&E) programs, my partner Jeff Kaplan and I have pinpointed several key attributes that we consider essential to an effective program, including