In a speech at NYU Law earlier this fall, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates announced a major new policy on individual accountability for corporate wrongdoing. In the wake of this announcement, the Law School’s Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement hosted a roundtable discussion on November 13 with Adjunct Professor Andrew Weissmann, chief of the Fraud Section of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, and Hui Chen, the division’s new compliance counsel, making her first public appearance in that role just 10 days after her hiring was announced. In a conversation moderated by Jennifer Arlen ’86, Norma Z. Paige Professor of Law, Weissmann and Chen discussed the role of the compliance counsel and what companies can do to create more effective compliance programs.

Hui Chen and Andrew Weissmann

Chen had worked previously in the Criminal Division as a trial attorney, preceding her positions as global head for anti-bribery and corruption at Standard Chartered Bank, as assistant general counsel at Pfizer, and as a compliance officer for Microsoft. “Prosecutors think we know everything, but we need to recognize where we need expert help,” said Weissmann regarding the importance of Chen’s role as compliance counsel. Having a compliance expert in the division can only be an asset, he said. “The only downside I can see is for companies that are trying to pass off a program that is not the real thing.”

Hui ChenAddressing an audience composed primarily of corporate compliance counsel, in-house counsel, and other enforcement officials, Chen spoke about the qualities that make for successful programs. “Compliance programs are dynamic; they’re evolving,” said Chen. “Your compliance program will look different three years from now. It should look different from three years ago.”

Although Chen acknowledged that compliance programs could differ drastically for companies of varying sizes, structures, and industries, she also identified the core features of effective programs. There are four key questions to look at, Chen said: how thoughtful the design of the program is, how operational it is, how well stakeholders communicate with each other, and how well resourced the program is.

Chen also emphasized the importance of creating a company culture that allows employees to feel secure when they raise complaints—particularly, she said, the ground-level employees in the field.

“Compliance work is a constant struggle,” said Chen. “A company that has made an effort to put in place an effective program will experience that struggle. We recognize that that is the nature of the process. What we want to see is real attention, real dialogue, and also executives really walking the walk beyond talking the talk.”

Posted November 25, 2015