Keeping Compliance Fresh:
Compliance Evangelist Tom Fox Speaks with Vin DiCianni
Affiliated Monitors, Inc.’s Founder and President Vin DiCianni puts Tom Fox the Compliance Evangelist on the hot seat to discuss how to use stories and pop culture to keep ethics and compliance fresh for employees and practitioners. Together they trace how Tom became an international authority in the compliance world, and why he finds the field so interesting. Additionally, Vin and Tom note the way the field has changed in the previous decades, and the trends that may be upcoming.
Lastly, they preview Tom’s new book, The Compliance Handbook: Volume II which is now available for preorder through LexisNexis. Use the discount code FOX25 for 25% off your purchase.
Keep reading for some of the episode’s main highlights and key takeaways.
Tom details how he got into the world of compliance:
“I became a general counsel at a company who in 2007, had the highest FCPA fine in the history of the world ever: $27 million. It was a company called Aibel, and I was a part of the team that came in after the FCPA settlement — back then, you didn’t engage in remediation until you had settled — so I was part of the implementation team for the new compliance program, and that was my introduction to compliance, really. We had a very — and let me emphasize — a very robust monitorship, and we learned a lot. I learned a lot about compliance. The company was sold eventually, and my job went away.
So I went out into private practice, and I decided to focus on what I had learned as a general counsel at the Aibel subsidiary Drilling Controls. and that was the nuts and bolts of compliance . . . I had a short hiatus between leaving Drilling Controls and starting my practice, which was to race bicycles, and I did that for about a year until I was involved in an accident on a training ride that ended my cycling career. So I had to go back to practicing law, and that’s what led to compliance.
I couldn’t leave my house except to go to physical therapy. So I started engaging in social media . . . but I was able to create a worldwide compliance practice literally out of my house, through the use of social media.”
On how Tom keeps compliance fresh in his blogs and podcasts:
“You have to keep compliance fresh by bringing fresh examples. It’s basically the same strategy I employ in my podcast network, and in my blog writing. I try to bring historical events . . . current events from non-fiction and fiction, whatever it may be. But you can create communications around compliance to keep it fresh with short bursts of appropriate, targeted communication that is disguised as training. If you figure out who needs the targeted training in your organization . . . the people on the first line of defense, they need more effective communications.”
How Tom became known as the Compliance Evangelist:
“So in ancient Greek — or I guess even modern Greek — the evangelist means “the bringer of good news”, and I adopted that moniker, Vin, because there is — the United Nations estimates there’s $3 trillion lost to the world’s economy each year due to bribery and corruption. And early on, I realized that I could be a part of the fight against this huge global scourge and that motivated me, literally every day, to try to do something to move the ball forward for compliance”
On whether a company can rehabilitate itself by adapting a strong compliance program:
“Absolutely. And Vin, I would point you to the recent series of articles in Compliance Week about the Volkswagen monitorship, and what struck me in those series of articles . . . was not really the work of the monitor that seemed to me to be the biggest focus. It was the work of Volkswagen, and how Volkswagen literally set up a structure to not simply deal with the monitor, but to implement the monitor’s suggestions . . . they were accountable. They communicated with their employee base about what was going on, and it was really the work of Volkswagen internally to change that culture, which had led to the massive scandal of Dieselgate. And the work of the monitor was certainly important, but it was the company saying ‘we will do this’.”
On how he uses sports and cultural references to illustrate the relevance of compliance:
“I’m trying to be a storyteller, and I’m trying to tell a story that’s interesting. And that seems to be a great way to communicate, but in many ways, Vin, compliance is doing the right thing, and it may be doing the right thing when no one is watching — I’ve heard ethics and compliance described as that. And there are so many examples in the real world, the cultural world, the fictional world, of doing the right thing when no one is looking. And I love bringing those out, because people remember those.”
On the advice he would give to an entrepreneur trying to establish a strong ethical culture:
“. . . compliance is an asset. And a best practice compliance program, in my mind, leads to greater business efficiency, leading to greater profitability, or greater ROI. It’s clear to me that companies that have a robust compliance program also have a great culture. They tend to have a speak-up culture. They tend to have a listen-up culture, meaning they listen when someone raises their hand and speaks up, and that leads to highly motivated employees. If you . . . have a compliance program, that is a market differentiator, and people will notice that. If . . . some reputational issue comes up, you are more well-suited to respond — literally immediately — if you have a robust compliance program. And if you can start off that way as a startup or an entrepreneur in a new company, it’s much easier to build it out when you have the infrastructure in place.”
On how compliance has evolved from its early days to now:
“. . . when I started — or we started — I think it was more lawyer driven. I used to say, policies and procedures were written by lawyers for lawyers, and with pages and pages of definitions, sometimes citations . . . But we’ve evolved past that. And we evolved into being seen much more as a business process with an internal customer base, who are employees that we need to market to, we need to sell to, we need to communicate with . . . rather than having it sit in the second line of defense in the corporate office.
. . . one of the two biggest evolutions (after the operationalizing of compliance), have been the evolution of data and data analytics, and then the input of behavioral psychology into trying to incentivize people to do the right thing . . . that leads to the concept of risk management of compliance, and with risk management, you have a greater opportunity for profit if you can manage risk appropriately, quickly, and efficiently. That of course has really led to where we are now, which is the explosion in ESG . . . the tools available to us, I think lend themselves to leading that effort, and I see a broader remit for compliance into 2025 and beyond.”
On whether compliance and ethics should be taught in higher education programs:
“Absolutely. I taught a compliance program at South Texas College of Law this past term. Business Ethics, I think, should be a part of every MBA program, because learning the quantitative skills to lead as a manager or senior executive are certainly critical. But equally critical is that tone you set, and the leadership skills, and the empathy that you’re able to articulate to your employees, will go a long way as well. So I’m a firm believer it should be taught in law schools, and it should be taught in business schools.”