Boy, do you love it when other companies get in trouble! 

At least, that’s what our analytics tell us. Since 2016, Compliance Week has tracked metrics on its stories in order to best get an idea as to what works and what doesn’t for our audience. Enforcement actions against large companies have often reigned supreme, but that doesn’t mean our users relish in the mistakes of their peers. 

Instead, it’s more a sign of how those in compliance look to the missteps of others to better inform their own programs. “When other people made bad decisions in other offices, I would call people in and say, ‘How do we make sure this terrible thing doesn’t happen to us?’ ” former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara recalled during his keynote at our 2019 National Conference in Washington D.C. “It’s a lot more fun to learn from other people’s mistakes than from your own.” 

With that in mind, it’s no surprise our “Top ethics and compliance failures of 2018” piece dominated our 2019 traffic as an all-encompassing look at where certain companies went wrong. But it’s in the stories of individual enforcements that we find trends that provide a glimpse into where the compliance audience’s focus is and how it has changed over time. 

Take, for example, 2019. Stories of enforcement actions against British Airways and Marriott for violations of the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) received more traffic than the average article about a company being fined. Of note, the United States’ first state data privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and—with some of its framework mirroring the GDPR—U.S. compliance officers need to know to what extent violations can harm their company. 

Meanwhile, 2018 was a banner year for anti-money laundering enforcement, with five of our top 10 enforcement stories having to do with AML deficiencies. The year prior, 2017, was big for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement, while 2016 was also dominated by FCPA enforcements and anti-bribery failures. 

What seems like a bunch of numbers out of context actually tells the interesting story of the compliance officer, an individual whose focus must shift at any given time to meet the evolving regulatory landscape. The year 2016 saw the launch of the Department of Justice’s FCPA Pilot Program, explaining how extra focus on anti-corruption would dominate that year and spill into the next. AML regulations strengthened across the European Union midway through 2017; and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s Customer Due Diligence Requirements for Financial Institutions rule (CDD Rule) went into effect in early 2018, reshaping the AML landscape in two major territories. 

Fast forward to now and, while the CCPA is front of mind for many in the United States, federal data privacy legislation also lurks around the corner. Requirements surrounding cannabis compliance and cryptocurrency are changing with the times, as are rules regarding artificial intelligence and perhaps even whistleblowers. 

There’s no doubt 2020 will see the landscape shift again, and we expect our audience’s focus to change with whatever the new trend becomes. Adapting to that is key for us at Compliance Week: In order to serve the chief compliance officer, we need to stay on top of the pulse of the industry to provide the most relevant information possible. 

We just hope we can get that information to you and your company in time to avoid the kind of mistakes everyone else is learning from.