The FBI Arrested a Compliance Professional???

By Roy Snell

I was told by someone that I might get a call from a reporter because the FBI just arrested a compliance professional from VW relating to the emissions scandal.  I said…

I hope I get a call.  I will ask what evidence they have that this is an organizational compliance professional and not someone who was in operations that had the word compliance in their title.  I see no evidence that he has had any education or experience in the operation of a compliance program.  This compliance title gets tossed around like candy.  Some dog catchers are called a compliance officer.  No disrespect, I love those who serve and keep us safe, but the two jobs have nothing in common. People who fill out forms in the finance industry to comply with government regulations are called compliance professionals.  They have no responsibility for using the 7 elements of a compliance program to prevent, find and fix compliance and ethics issues which is what the organizational compliance professional does.  In fact, like those who make attestations to the government, such as those who file taxes, they should be reviewed by the compliance department… not in the compliance department.  Otherwise, it’s a clear conflict of interest.  So, don’t tell me you put an organizational compliance professional in jail unless you can prove this guy had a role in running a compliance program.  You should say you put a guy in jail who has the word compliance in his title.  If you have no training in running a compliance program, no experience in helping run a compliance program, and you haven’t networked with and learned best practice from other organizational compliance professionals…  you just might not be an organizational compliance professional.

Update 1/11/17

Follow-up… The LA Times reported, “Oliver Schmidt, who was general manager of the engineering and environmental office for VW of America, was charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and wire fraud.”  Saying he was a “general manager of the engineering and environmental office” implies that he was responsible for operations. It implies he was told by the company to get engineering and environmental work done. That’s operations. People in operations can’t also be a compliance professional. That’s a conflict of interest.

That’s like asking the CFO to audit their own financials. That’s an unacceptable conflict of interest. VW had, or should have had, an independent compliance office (independent of the people they are auditing and investigating) checking this departments operations to assure that it was in compliance with the rule of law. All that said to say… if he was in charge of emissions operations… he by definition cannot be a compliance professional even if they put the word compliance in his title. If I am interpreting his job correctly, a compliance professional was not arrested. Someone in operations/management was arrested.

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  1. Roy,

    You make several excellent points in a well written and spot on response to this supposed arrest of a “Compliance Professional”. Your words extend beyond this one particular instance.

  2. Perhaps we should develop relationships with journalists and others who work the corporate fraud beat (e.g., Gretchen Morgenson of the NYT, Bill Black of Univ. of Missouri) to help them better understand what compliance professionals do and who is not a compliance professional regardless of what their title says.

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