Anti-bribery, anti-corruption, privacy, protections, ethics, compliance. Each of these areas felt a major impact due to significant legal developments that took place throughout 2010. Each of the laws that made this list didn’t do so without controversy. While many of these laws continue to be scrutinized, and some won’t even be in full effect until 2011, one thing is clear – companies must comply or face the fines. Legal developments in 2010 showed companies that ethics and compliance enforcement is on the rise. Here are the top 5 legal developments of 2010:
1. US Federal Sentencing Guideline Amendments
On November 1st, the latest round of amendments to the US Federal Sentencing Guidelines was put into action. The bulk of the amendments focus on the continued development of guidelines for effective corporate ethics and compliance programs. The guidelines offer guidance for companies, informing them of the steps they can take and what constitutes as an effective ethics and compliance program. The amendments include the addition of subsection (f)(3)(C) to the guidelines, which lists criteria companies must meet in order to consider being granted a fine reduction if found guilty of violating the guidelines.
2. UK Bribery Act
The UK Bribery Act has been a hot topic throughout 2010. Although it doesn’t come into full effect until April 2011, I felt this law should make this year’s list, as companies should have already started preparing for it. The UK faced criticism for not implementing an anti-bribery law sooner, but they certainly made up for it by developing one of- if not the toughest, anti-bribery act around the globe. The Act applies to businesses carrying out business in the UK. The fines handed out under the Act will start off on par with those given out by the FCPA. For more information about what to expect with the Act, check out this interview I did with Barry and Richard of thebriberyact.com.
3. Ontario’s Bill 168
Bill 168 applies to businesses in Ontario with 5 or more employees. Bill 168 came into effect on June 15th and requires compliance from all employers. The Bill provides employees with protection against violence and harassment in the workplace. The Ontario Ministry of Labour has established a resource entitled “Workplace Violence and Harassment: Understanding the Law,” to help employers understand the definitions of workplace harassment and violence, as well as clarifying employer responsibilities surrounding policies and programs. This bill proves that companies are more liable than ever before.
For more on Bill 168, check out one of our earlier posts, “Ontario’s Bill 168 in Effect Today.”
4. Dodd-Frank Act
In its full name, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was signed into law in the US on July 21st. The Act is a response to the recent economic recession and has been referred to as one of the greatest changes to financial regulation the US has seen since the Great Depression. The Act:
- Puts an end to “Too Big to Fail Bailouts”.
- Instates a watchdog to make sure consumers are given accurate information and protected when purchasing financial “products”.
- Increases transparency, eliminates loopholes.
- Increased oversight of books- Encourage the pursuit of financial fraud.
The above points are just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps one of the most talked about components of the Dodd-Frank Act has been the whistleblower protections and incentives for coming forward.
5. OECD Developments
Alright, alright, I know this isn’t a law- the OECD even states that in the opening of the document, but this guidance includes most of the US Federal Sentencing Guidelines plus additional standards for corporate ethics and compliance. Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics and Compliance was released by the OECD on February 18th. The guidance is flexible so that it can be adapted to the specific circumstances companies face. The OECD is regarded as a leader in best practices; therefore, the advice offered in the guidance definitely puts companies on the right track when it comes to ethics and compliance programs.