Compliance Culture Building Block #1: Practice What You Preach

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Compliance culture Building Blocks

Margaret ScavottoBy Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC
Director of Compliance Services
Management Performance Associates

Compliance Culture: 10 Building Blocks – Part 1

Time and time again, we see the same conundrum set forth in a DOJ press release or news article about a health care provider in hot water for false claims: “The provider had a compliance department,” or “This company’s compliance team included three people,” or “An anonymous compliance hotline was in place.” How, then, do providers with robust investments in compliance and a seeming commitment to ethical practices, end up signing a Corporate Integrity Agreement?

The answer is simple: compliance officers, hotlines, audits and commitments only work if they are followed. For example, in 2010, Deepwater Horizon, a BP oil rig, exploded and sank, killing 11 people and releasing 205 million oil gallons into the Gulf. An investigation revealed that BP had an operation management safety system at the core of its practices. But this system was not implemented in the Gulf. One person testified that the reason the safety system was skipped was to save costs.[ii]

Do you practice what you preach?

When things go wrong, it can be tempting for even the most ethical compliance officer, executive or board member to ignore a problem, hope it goes away, not rock the boat, and get back to work. What stops people from burying a problem? The culture of the organization. If your culture puts compliance first, your compliance staff will find it far easier to practice what you preach.

 “If your culture puts compliance first, your compliance staff will find it far easier to practice what you preach.”

What you can do

In order for your compliance systems to work, they need to be touted, constantly. Employees need to believe your organization will respond constructively if they identify a problem. When compliance complaints are made, swiftly investigate. Follow your investigations and corrective actions procedures every time. If you are nervous about what you might find, call your lawyer first. If a problem is found, fix it, and if the complainant was not anonymous, thank them and follow up to the extent that you can. If you practice what you preach, others will too.

[i] The Importance of Ethical Culture: Increasing Trust and Driving Down Risks, 2009 National Business Ethics Survey, Ethics Resource Center, 2010, available at: http://www.corporatecompliance.org/Resources/View/ArticleId/244/The-Importance-of-Ethical-Culture-Increasing-Trust-and-Driving-Down-Risks-1-2.aspx  (last checked November 11, 2015).

[ii] Deepwater oil spill a ‘classic failure’ of BP management, court hears, by Dominic Rushe, The Guardian, February 26, 2013, available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/feb/26/deepwater-oil-spill-trial-bp-failure (last checked November 11, 2015)

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