Every year I kick off the week of the Compliance Week annual conference by spot-lighting what I suspect will be the most interesting, important, or just plan newsworthy sessions we have on our agenda. This year we have so many prominent keynote speakers and so many pressing issues, the choices are harder than ever to make. Expect regular coverage of the conference throughout the week and in our June 11 newsletter, but for now…
Jed Rakoff. U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff—he who has gone mano a mano with the Securities and Exchange Commission, pushing for more severe sanctions for corporate misconduct; he who has written extensively on securities law, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and effective compliance programs—will deliver a keynote address on Tuesday morning. I spoke with Rakoff a few weeks ago about his speech, and he hinted that he'll share his views about the increasing scope of responsibility for corporate compliance and legal departments, and the dilemmas and pressures thereof. Somehow I suspect many attendees will be quite familiar with those dilemmas and pressures.
My only lament: that Rakoff can't talk about his decision to reject an SEC settlement with Citigroup last year, and the SEC's subsequent decision to appeal his ruling, since that appeal is still under review. But that case aside, Rakoff has ruled on an extraordinary number of newsworthy case; love him or hate him, he is a hugely important figure.
The COSO framework. On Monday afternoon we'll have a panel discussion about the future of the revised COSO framework for internal controls. Those revisions are either in a state of flux or a state of chaos, depending on your point of view. The proposed revisions came under sharp criticism from some corners of the internal audit world, and last month COSO pushed back its target for adopting a final revised framework from late 2012 into the first half of 2013. The critics say that any revised framework should address risk management more broadly, while the pro-COSO forces argue that internal control is only one part of risk management; addressing all of it would be beyond the scope of what the framework tries to do.
How this framework has generated as much intrigue as a “Game of Thrones” episode, I don't know—but I do look forward to any hints that COSO can share on Tuesday. The plain truth is that legions of companies base their internal control over financial reporting on the COSO framework, which is woefully out of date, and any update will be useful and much-appreciated.
Don't freak out, man! Yes, we've all seen the now-famous survey from the Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics earlier this year, which found that 60 percent of compliance officers are so stressed they lose sleep at night and have considered quitting the profession. I don't dispute those conclusions one bit, but they're deeply disturbing for the compliance community and Corporate America as a whole; if compliance and risk management are this difficult, then clearly, we're doing it wrong. So on Wednesday morning we'll have a panel discussion to consider how compliance officers can make their lives a little more sane.
Our panelists will hail from the healthcare, aerospace, and government sectors—all heavily regulated industries, pouring layer upon layer of responsibility onto the CCO. Patrick Carney, assistant general counsel for ethics at the Federal Communications Commission and one of our speakers, described the situation this way: “In just about every other profession, the longer you work at it, the better you understand it, and the less stressed you become. In compliance, the longer you work at it, the more you understand just how much can go so wrong, and the more stressed you become.”
Each panelist has promised to offer three examples of stress in his or her job, and how he or she is defusing them. Then comes a deeper discussion on the plight of the compliance profession as a whole, and how we can all try to get through the day with a little less valium.
Overseas. This year we've put something new on the agenda: our “Global Track” series of breakout sessions, to look at the compliance challenges in specific parts of the world. Since this is our first stab at detailed overseas discussion, we picked the obvious choices: Brazil, Europe, India, the Middle East, and China. In almost every one, we've paired one Western compliance executive with a local compliance officer from each region to be “conversation leaders.”
How useful will these sessions be? What will be discussed? I don't know yet. But I do know that more and more Compliance Week subscribers are telling us that they need more and more international coverage. The Global Track is our first response, and we'll have much more in the future.
Look for occasional updates from Compliance Week 2012 here on our website throughout the week, and for in-depth features in our June 11 and June 18 newsletters. And those 450 of you at the conference already: the bar is on the second floor; when in doubt, look for me there.