Compliance and Ethics in Review: April 30, 2019

The Latest and Greatest Industry News

New EU whistleblower rules, the first criminal charges of the opioid crisis, retaliation for war crimes-related whistleblowing, and more.

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.

Skillsoft, Convercent partner on hotline offering

Skillsoft recently announced new enhancements to its platform and content, including a partnership with Convercent.

Our team is excited to bring hotline and case management guidance to the online learning platform’s customer base.

As always, our goal is to strengthen workplace cultures while helping companies foster an environment where employees feel empowered to speak up.

Protecting whistle-blowers: new EU-wide rules approved

New whistleblower protections promise to protect whistleblowers across the European Union who disclose work-related information about illegal and/or harmful activities. The new rules were overwhelmingly favored, with 591 votes in favor, 29 against, and 33 abstentions. Next, the law must be approved by EU ministers. After approval, Member States will have two years to reach compliance.

To prepare and learn more about how the new rules could impact your company, don’t miss this insightful read: The EU’s Proposed Protections For Whistleblowers: What Companies Need to Know.

First major drug distribution company, former executives, criminally charged in opioid crisis

Between 2012 and 2016, Rochester Drug Co-Operative is accused of distributing tens of millions of doses of oxycodone, fentanyl, and other opioids to pharmacies. The distributor’s own compliance department could not identify a legitimate need for thousands of doses.

Rochester is one of the top 10 largest drug distributors in the U.S. It’s also the first distributor to face criminal charges for its role in the ongoing opioid crisis, alongside two of the company’s top executives. Earlier this week, charges for conspiracy to violate narcotics laws, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and willfully failing to file suspicious order reports were levied. Both executives could face lifetime prison sentences.

Google staff share claims of company retaliation in town hall meeting

As any C&E professional unfortunately knows, retaliation is a frightening reality for many whistleblowers. In the wake of last year’s global employee walkout, two Google employees who led the large-scale protest now claim they are facing retaliation from their employer.

To address the retaliation, Claire Stapleton and Meredith Whittaker held a town hall where other victims could voice their concerns about the company’s retaliatory internal culture. Details about the additional stories that were shared have not been released yet.

Lyft chief policy officer: We’re facing a climate crisis while the government looks the other way

Anthony Foxx, Lyft’s chief policy officer and the former secretary of transportation under President Obama, has strong words for the government: It’s time to step up and do something about climate change. He shared his thoughts with the CNN Business article linked above, and it’s an interesting look at corporate activism in action.

Whether you agree or disagree with Foxx, we can’t deny that more companies are speaking up about the most pressing issues facing humanity. Activism can even be a good business move, but should your company take a public stand?

It’s a question that should be answered before the next big issue starts trending. To zero in on your organization’s comfort with activism, don’t miss this panel session from CONVERGE18: CEO as Activist: Whose Role is it Anyway?

Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard Is in Business to Save the Earth—Not Wall Street

Yvon Chouinard began his career as an ethical entrepreneur in 1972 when he teamed up with Tom Frost to manufacture rock-friendly aluminum wedges for climbers. For Chouinard, “My big issue is saving the planet. Nothing else matters.”

If your organization is grappling with the idea of activism, be sure to read this article for a deeper look into how it works at Patagonia.

Ford under criminal investigation for emissions testing problems

Last week, Ford Motor Company confessed that it is currently under preliminary investigation by the Department of Justice over its internal emissions testing practices. The automaker has been quick to separate the issue from Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, noting that their practices do not involve “defeat devices,” or software intended to deceive regulators.

Ford isn’t the only automaker currently under fire for emissions, either. Daimler and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are also reportedly under criminal investigation. However, their cases allegedly involve defeat devices.

Navy SEALs Were Warned Against Reporting Their Chief for War Crimes

Whistleblowing is emotional and potentially career-ending, regardless of industry. The fear of retaliation is all-too-real, even for members of the armed services who are fighting to do the right thing when their superiors commit atrocious war crimes.

This article from the New York Times details one recent instance of military whistleblowing, where seven platoon members tried to bring attention to atrocious war crimes committed in Iraq by their leader, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher. After no action was taken they requested a formal investigation but were quickly warned that speaking out could put their careers at risk.

Facebook Says Settling FTC Probe Could Cost Up to $5 Billion

Facebook is trying to put the Cambridge Analytica scandal to rest, to the tune of a fine that could reach $5 billion.

The social media company already announced a $3 billion charge related to the FTC’s investigation about potential violations of a 2011 privacy settlement. Reaching a settlement on the fines to be paid would resolve one of the company’s largest current liabilities.

New York and New Jersey Boy Scout leaders accused of sexual abuse

The momentum of the #MeToo movement continues, and the Boy Scouts of America is the latest organization to come under fire. Testimony from a January trial uncovered at least 7,819 alleged child sex abusers and more than 12,000 victims between 1944 and 2016. In the New York chapter alone, attorney Jeff Anderson has identified 130 perpetrators.

At a press conference, Anderson referenced a new state law that will take effect in August: the Child Victims Act. The legislation increases the statute of limitations of alleged sexual abuse claims based on age, upping it from 23 years to 28 years. Until they reach age 55, victims will also be allowed to press civil charges against their accusers. Privacy protections are also included.

Ted Baker hires former B&Q & Topshop HR exec as non-exec director

After founder and former CEO Ray Kelvin left his post in the wake of sexual harassment claims, U.K. retailer Ted Baker PLC has hired former Marks & Spencer PLC human resources chief Helena Feltham as non-executive director.

German prosecutors probe bonus payments to suspended VW manager

Volkswagen is once again under fire. Now, German prosecutors are investigating a possible breach of the automotive company’s fiduciary duty. The issue in question involves one VW manager who received bonus payments while suspended over the VW emissions scandal.

Prosecutors declined to identify the manager, but the person is one of five VW executives who face criminal charges for conspiring to cover up the carmaker’s diesel emissions cheating scandal.

KPMG 2019 CCO Survey Identifies Ethics and Compliance Areas for Enhancement

Regardless of industry, most organizations take ethics and compliance risks very seriously. KPMG came to this conclusion after surveying 220 chief compliance officers (CCOs), and their newest report outlines the top five areas where CCOs should plan enhancements to their ethics and compliance initiatives: Investigations, monitoring and testing, data analytics, regulatory change management, and reporting and data visualization.

Why Is Policy and Procedure Management Now More Important Than Ever?

Protecting your company (and it’s reputation) from risk requires a strategic and thoughtful approach to policy and procedure management. Before a public scandal points to holes in your ethics, governance, and/or compliance program, take time to learn about six best-practices-based policy and procedure management stages that can save the day:

  1. Develop
  2. Review & approve
  3. Publish
  4. Attestations
  5. Knowledge assessments
  6. Reports & audit trails