Compliance and Ethics in Review: April 17, 2019

The Latest and Greatest Industry News

Join the Convercent team for a weekly review of the top stories and most newsworthy events in the ethics and compliance industry. The focus is global, but you might be surprised by how relevant these stories are, both across borders and businesses.

What to Know About the Fight Between Hollywood’s Writers and Agents

There’s an unusual fight going on in Hollywood right now — the unions representing television and film writers have taken on the talent agencies. According to the Writer’s Guild of America, talent agents are thwarting their legally bound fiduciary duties by putting their own interests ahead of the writers they represent. Now, they want these agencies to sign a new code of conduct.

Historically, the studios that employ writers were the target of such disputes. If there’s any hope of a resolution, this most recent battle may force the entertainment industry to commit to fundamental structural changes. What will happen next is anyone’s best guess, so be sure to read the above article for more background.

UCLA administrators need to be held accountable in college admissions scandal

According to recent reports, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) knew about unethical college admissions practices years before the current scandal. An internal investigation that was completed in July 2014 detailed a young woman’s admission to the university as a recruited athlete. In this case, the student’s parents pledged $100,000 to the athletics program a year before their daughter began classes.

The confidential report was reviewed by the LA Times. In it, UCLA’s former director of administrative policies and compliance office William Cormie wrote that the timing of the donation and the investigation’s findings “[remove] any reasonable doubt that the contribution from the parents was obtained quid pro quo for the daughter’s admission.”

Katie Smith on compliance at a growth company

Last week, Convercent’s own Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer, Katie Smith, joined Tom Fox on the “Top Minds in Compliance” podcast. Katie talks candidly about the challenges she faces at a fast-paced, high-growth company. The analogy she uses to describe those challenges is fitting, too:

“Stepping into the startup world and trying to build an ethics and compliance program, I liken it to changing the tires on a car as its screaming down the highway.”

To learn how Katie manages to change those tires in her work at Convercent – don’t miss this insightful podcast episode.

Australia’s Anti-Bribery & Corruption Laws: 12 Steps Towards Compliance

In September 2018 the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) released a guide (click the link to download the guide directly) for Australians conducting international business. It offers practical guidance on how to build a culture of compliance within the organization. The simple-but-effective 12-step plan was specifically designed to decrease the risk of bribery and corruption.

This article from Lexology provides more insight into each of the steps, and it’s a helpful review for any Australian company committed to creating a robust Anti-Bribery & Corruption (ABC) compliance program.

UN report calls for increased staff for anti-corruption unit and code of conduct for judges

The United Nations (UN) has released findings from an investigation into Ireland’s compliance with its Convention Against Corruption. In response, the Irish Government published an executive summary of the findings, which identified both “Ireland’s successes and good practices” and challenges.

Some of the “successes and good practices” related to corruption prevention include whistleblower legislation where the motive of the discloser is “irrelevant”, a freedom of information disclosure log, and a money laundering committee.

The country’s challenges include creating an anti-corruption inter-agency steering committee, lowering the limits of gifts to public officials, establishing a Judicial Council with a mandate to adopt a code of conduct for judges, and establishing a unified anti-money-laundering supervisory authority.

Europe Thinks Ethics Is the Key to Winning the A.I. Race. Not Everyone Is Convinced

Earlier this month, the European Commission announced a set of ethical artificial intelligence (AI) guidelines. Independent, AI-focused academic experts and digital rights activists joined representatives from trade bodies and tech companies such as Google, IBM, and SAP to create the guidelines.

While the EU has yet to make an official statement about introducing rules for companies using AI technology, it’s widely recognized that these new guidelines could be used in future legislation.

According to the guidelines, AI systems should:

  • Support people’s rights
  • Allow users to retain control over their own data
  • Use secure and reliable algorithms
  • Be transparent about the decisions emitted by AI systems
  • Hold someone accountable for decisions made by AI
  • “… Be used to enhance positive social change and enhance sustainability and ecological responsibility.”

EEOC sexual harassment charges up as overall total declines

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 76,418 workplace discrimination charges during the 2018 fiscal year. That’s 7,836 fewer cases than 2017’s count of 84,254 charges.

However, despite increased media attention, few employers reported changes to their sexual harassment investigation and reporting protocols. As an example, a December 2018 poll found that 57% of the women who were surveyed felt their workplace environments did not change in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement.

The EEOC even found a 13.6% increase in sexual harassment charges compared to the previous year. The EEOC’s acting chair Victoria A. Lipnic explained the uptick by stating, “we cannot look back on last year without noting the significant impact of the #MeToo movement in the number of sexual harassment and retaliation charges filed with the agency.”

HSBC Sexual Harassment Case Shows Banks’ Struggles in MeToo Era

Speaking of the #MeToo era, Bloomberg notes that financial firms around the globe continue to struggle with handling complaints of sexual harassment. This particular story follows a junior employee at HSBC who complained that she was sexually harassed by a senior executive. To add insult to injury, the banker, Thibaut de Roux, spoke at a town hall meeting in late August about conduct while the investigation was underway.

Additionally, the woman wasn’t informed about the progress of the investigation. Whether HSBC held a formal disciplinary hearing is unclear, but this process is more serious than an investigation. According to U.K. employment laws, the decision can range from no consequences to dismissal.

Google loses diversity chief amid unrest over workplace issues

Last week, Google diversity chief Danielle Brown announced her departure. The issue at hand? How the tech giant dealt with culture-related employee uprisings over the past year. Most recently in November, approximately 20,000 global employees walked out of their respective Google offices worldwide to protest how the company handled sexual assault allegations against certain executives.

In a LinkedIn post, Brown wrote, “What if, in addition to trying to solve for employee engagement and inclusion within the biggest tech companies in the world, we tried to solve those critical needs for every local storefront, every new startup just getting off the ground, or every doctor’s office across our communities?”

In light of recent events throughout industries, it’s a question all C&E leaders should be asking.