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Mary Snyder

Mary Snyder

Mary Snyder, JD, served as Senior Director, Advisory Services, where she conducted compliance and ethics program assessments and planning, code of conduct evaluations and drafting, benchmarking, and risk assessments.

With the winter holidays approaching, it’s a good time to refresh employees’ memories about your company’s gifts and hospitality rules. The general message to employees should be absolutely clear:  follow the rules, seek help if you aren’t sure what you can or can’t do, use good judgment and never do something that just doesn’t feel right. You might include the following list of additional reminders:

In the past few years, as the use of social media has become more and more mainstream, companies have been waiting and watching for case law, guidance or some direction on what they can and should do with employees’ use of social media. Struggling to find a balance that protects employee rights and the best interests of the company has made the development of social media policies challenging—to say the least. We are finally getting what we are waiting for… more guidance… and now, we just have to figure out where we go from here.

I was struck by today’s New York Times article on “Elite School Students Describe the How and Why of Cheating.” The article discusses what appears to be an accepted standard for behavior at Stuyvesant High School – “New York City’s flagship public school.” What is striking is how rational the students are when making their decisions:

In a recent presentation, Sam Sommers, an award-winning psychology professor at Tufts University, commented on the important role that context plays in our decisions and actions. Among other things, he talked about how unethical behavior is incremental, contagious and not always the result of selfishness or ill intent. We do follow the leaders in our organizations—unethical behavior can easily spread. Importantly, instructions to simply follow our conscience—to do what we think is right—is not enough, since choices are often complicated.  And, we are good at finding ways to explain/justify what we do. Everyone exaggerates their billable hours a bit, right?  Why should we pay our nanny on the books if nobody else does? 

Yet another report provides statistical support for maintaining an effective ethics and compliance program. The report issued by the Ethics Resource Center last week, entitled Inside the Mind of a Whistleblower, looks at the factors that cause an employee to speak up. The analysis starts with awareness (“This is wrong. I should do something.”) and considers agency (“Can I make a difference?”), security & investment (“Should I be the one to say something?”) and support & connectedness (“Who can I rely on for help?”). Within this framework, it finds employees generally want to report wrongdoing when they see it and that in most cases, will take their concerns to someone they know within the company. Also, and in general, monetary rewards did not appear to be a major factor in a reporter’s decision to report misconduct outside the company first.

I read with interest – and despair – the article in Sunday’s New York Times entitled “Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle: An Internal Inquiry Was Shut Down, and the Authorities Were Not Notified.”

I was interested by the results of two recent surveys.  The first, by the Ethics Resource Center, presents a good news/bad news story. The good news:  Misconduct witnessed by U.S. workers has reached historic lows while reporting of misconduct is almost as high as it’s ever been. Great! Now, the bad news: U.S. workers report increasing pressure to violate corporate policies. Also, the percentage of employees who say their business has a weak ethics culture is increasing. 

On Monday, November 28, 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported on expenditures by “corporate America’s top lobbyists” to “curb” the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which has generated about $4 billion in criminal penalties over the past five years. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) is leading the effort, paying outside lobbyists more than $700,000 in the first three quarters of 2011 to work on amendments to the Act.

Mary Snyder, JD

Friday, 03 November 2000 00:50 Published in Authors

Mary Snyder, JD, served as Senior Director, Advisory Services, where she conducted compliance and ethics program assessments and planning, code of conduct evaluations and drafting, benchmarking, and risk assessments.

Almost ten years after Sarbanes-Oxley became effective, many companies – both public and privately-owned – have instituted some form of legal compliance and ethics program. The U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines stress the importance of these programs—if "effective"—in determining whether any leniency will be afforded companies that find themselves in legal trouble.  More recently, the Dodd-Frank whistleblower provisions, which offer financial incentives to individuals who report suspected securities laws violations directly to the SEC, provide a strong impetus for companies to focus on the effectiveness of their compliance programs, particularly their internal reporting systems.

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