International Recognition for Compliance and Ethics Programs: The 2010 OECD Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics and Compliance

International Recognition for Compliance and Ethics Programs: The 2010 OECD Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics and Compliance

By Donna C. Boehme and Joseph E. Murphy, JD, CCEP

Any compliance and ethics professional who has spoken in front of a multinational audience during the last two decades knows the challenge of promoting compliance and ethics principles with only a U.S.-centric sounding U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations (USSG) as a standard. The USSG have served organizations well, establishing a compelling model for proactively managing their legal compliance and ethics issues, together with strong incentives to do so. Results so far have been impressive: the USSG have been influential throughout the world, not only with both U.S. and non-U.S. based multinationals implementing global programs, but also as a beacon of best practice to other key jurisdictions.

But now, for the first time, an international standard for compliance and ethics programs has been set by express agreement of 38 nations — 34 of the leading democratic economies that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), plus four non-member signatories to its anticorruption mission. The resulting document, the February 2010 publication of the OECD’s “Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics and Compliance” (“Good Practice Guidance” or “the Guidance”), now joins the body of the USSG and similar policy guidelines and laws either in place or being enacted in other jurisdictions around the world, and articulates the first multi-nationally recognized, common principles for effective corporate compliance and ethics. As this article will discuss, this is a quiet, yet significant step forward for organizational compliance and ethics — a striking declaration that belongs on the desks of multinationals’ boards, senior management and compliance and ethics officers.

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