By Che Odom
Feb. 9 — The Department of Justice plans to release a set of questions in the coming weeks that companies implicated in wrongdoing can expect to be asked by investigators concerning their compliance programs.
Andrew Weissmann, chief of the DOJ Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, told a group of attorneys meeting in Washington Feb. 9 that the department plans to publicize the list of sample questions to give the public and companies an idea of what investigators and compliance experts are concerned with. The list will be continually updated based on experiences officials have with companies, he said.
“We are not going to be looking for specific answers” or for companies to “check boxes,” he said. “We don’t have a cookie-cutter view when it comes to compliance.”
Also in the works, the Fraud Section hopes to implement a policy of trying to resolve within a year cases in which companies self-report violations, assuming there are no individual criminal prosecutions or the need for extended monitoring, he said.
“We want to be more speedy,” said Weissmann, who became chief of the section nearly a year ago .
When it comes to evaluating corporate compliance and remediation, the Fraud Section will be especially concerned with the message officers and directors send to lower-level employees, Weissmann said. This means looking at whether the company has disciplined or fired anyone for wrongdoing and if any bonuses have been reduced or clawed back, he said.
Weissmann observed that compliance should be a responsibility shared among management and the business units, where there are people who know the daily ins-and-outs of operations.
Moreover, compliance experts are necessary for an effective program, so the DOJ will look to see that a company’s compliance personnel has the proper background. “Do they have the expertise to evaluate the transaction at issue?” he asked.
Compliance Counsel’s Role
The DOJ’s added emphasis on corporate compliance was evident in November 2015, when it hired Hui Chen—the former compliance chief from Standard Chartered Bank PLC—as its first compliance counsel .
Chen will have a role in all settlements between companies and the DOJ, looking at the adequacy of compliance programs and the remediation steps taken, Weissmann said.
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