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Corporate Federal Sentencing Guidelines: The Consequences of Compliance Failure

By: Ted Banks

The Corporate Federal Sentencing Guidelines are no laughing matter, and as such, should not be taken lightly. These guidelines spell out in great detail what happens when people and organizations fail to adhere to the law, and the consequences are very severe. Basically, they determine the consequences of felonies and Class A misdemeanors. However, they also create a framework that organizations need to follow to mitigate compliance risks and protect their organization from unethical criminal behavior. If your organization lacks a corporate compliance program, it is high time you read up on the Corporate Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Not only do they provide benefits such as protecting the future of your organization, but some of their requirements are mandatory.

Sentencing Guideline Impositions

In the event that your organization fails to comply with the law, the consequences can be dire. Not only would you need to consider the damage your organization inflicted on the lives of customers or the well-being of other organizations, but you must also consider the threats of individual liability.

In addition to defining punishment and consequences, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has also defined the minimum requirements for compliance and ethics programs as follows:

  • Create a framework and best practices to both avoid and identify wrong-doing and criminal behavior
  • Exercise control, leadership, and oversight of an ethics program
  • Take measures to make certain that unethical employees don’t receive power and authority within the program
  • Train, inform, and educate employees regarding the latest compliance and ethics issues
  • Utilize audits to monitor the effectiveness of the program on a regular basis
  • Provide a means of internal enforcement with consequences and discipline
  • Take action against criminal conduct
  • Take actions to prevent future criminal conduct

A failure to meet these requirements could mean that your organization is judged more stringently in the event of a compliance failure. Also be aware that if it is noticed that your organization lacks the above measures, you will certainly be required to implement them.

Avoiding the Risks and Liabilities of Unethical Behavior

24 years ago in 1991, the U.S. Sentencing Commission set forth rules to crack down on organizational crime. Their intention for creating these rules was to discourage criminal activity while simultaneously encouraging ethical behavior via corporate compliance programs. These regulations serve as the foundation of the modern compliance landscape. Failing to meet the demands of the impositions set forth by these regulations can be detrimental to the future of your business.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and you should obviously do everything in your power to avoid the scenario of your organization or employees being held personally accountable for compliance failure. A solid compliance and ethics program can drastically mitigate the possibility of compliance failure and an ethics program can help discourage criminal actions. If you don’t already have systems in place to protect against unethical behavior, you need to reach out to a professional.

Instead of leaving yourself vulnerable to the ravages of compliance failure, contact us today. We can help you create a compliance program and answer any questions you might have.