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There continues to be controversy about whether a company’s general counsel should also be the CECO, especially at large companies. Putting aside the question of whether this is a good idea, however, I want to pose a different question for companies that claim their GC is also the CECO: Could you prove it?
Does this sound like a silly question? Remember that the CECO is supposed to be someone with authority and a degree of independence. The CECO needs to be positioned to get things done, and should be visible to employees. The CECO runs an extremely important operation whose function is to prevent and detect misconduct throughout the company. So if you plan to tell prosecutors and regulators you have a CECO and it is the GC, can you answer these simple questions?
1) When the promotion or hiring of your GC was announced, did the announcement state that the person was also the CECO? (I often read notices where the position is announced as general counsel, VP and corporate secretary. But CECO isn’t important enough to mention?).
2) Is the CECO role in the GC’s written position description?
3) Does the GC’s annual evaluation or assessment cover the compliance program?
4) Is the CECO title on the GC’s business card?
5) Does the GC have any training in the compliance and ethics field?
6) Has the GC ever attended any compliance & ethics professional institute, conference, or best practices forum?
7) Is the GC a Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional?
8) Does the GC know what the Code of Ethics for Compliance and Ethics Professionals is? Does the GC follow it?
9) Does the GC have any experience in compliance and ethics programs?
Remember, when it comes to dealing with the government, the burden of proof is on you to establish that you have an effective program. It could be tough to prove that if you cannot actually prove that the person you state is your CECO really is one.
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