Transparency after a compliance failure: FAQs finally answered

With the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions, companies can make successful disclosures and take decisive action

This year has brought with it the full, public disclosure of several management-commissioned independent investigations. Example investigations include the Jonathan Martin/Miami Dolphins (Issue of Workplace Conduct 2/14/14) and General Motors Ignition Switch recall, May 29, 2014. Various reasons exist for this level of increased transparency. Some believe it is simply a good governance practice, while others focus on transparency as part of a board’s fiduciary duty when the issue involves the CEO. In addition, communities, clients, customers, and other constituents have come to expect increased transparency from the organizations in their midst.   

Still, after a breach of compliance or customer trust, companies often struggle with decisions about whether—and how much—to disclose beyond the small group of those who “need to know.” By knowing the answers to some of the questions most frequently at the heart of a disclosure analysis, companies can make successful disclosures and take decisive action—and avoid the criticism that so often follows slow and/or incomplete disclosures.

2.    Won’t company-wide discussions of compliance failures invite allegations of defamation and violations of privacy? 

This is a legitimate concern, and reinforces the necessity for public conversations to be focused solely on the facts. Usually, the most useful conversations focus on process breakdowns, remediation and prevention. Discussion about individual behavior is useful only as a limited learning tool. Beyond that, the conversation is not instructive, and thus not useful. 

Contributing Author

author image

Kathleen Edmond

Kathleen Edmond is an attorney at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.  She has spent the majority of her legal career in corporate ethics and compliance....

Bio and more articles

Join the Conversation

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.