Risk Management, Ethics Taking Center Stage Again


Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C., is seeking a "principal integrity officer." The person's chief responsibilities will include planning and executing fraud and corruption investigations. Qualifications include a law degree or a graduate degree in forensic accounting, 10 years of relevant experience, as well as oral and written fluency in English and Spanish.


Especially in light of the current economic environment and the highly publicized scandals and bankruptcies that have accompanied it, we shouldn't be surprised that more companies are looking for compliance, ethics and risk-management professionals who can help them cultivate and maintain trust. Keith Darcy, the executive director of the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association, told me last week that his non-profit organization had 19 original signatories when it began in 1991. It grew to nearly 600 members by 2001, and now -- post Enron, WorldCom and Sarbanes-Oxley -- it has 1,400 members across six continents.


In the last decade or so, Darcy says, the markets have seen a "flight to integrity." People are investing in businesses they trust and pulling their money out of those they don't trust. "We've got to deal with the issue of trust. I think it is the biggest issue of the day," he says. To do that, companies are hiring compliance officers or ethics officers. Yes, compliance is important, and companies will need to be ready for the changes that are coming as we enter an age of "reregulation." However, says Darcy, if we don't also focus on ethics and corporate culture, "we've missed the point." Companies are not only required to comply with the letter of regulations and laws, but they must also develop a system of ethics and a corporate culture that embraces that system.


Ideally, to accomplish that, the company should start at the top, with a C-level executive whose responsibility it is to determine what the ethics and risk-management policies should be, how they should be enforced and communicated to the employees, and then to pull together the team to execute those plans. They need to build a values-based culture, Darcy says, because culture is what drives business.


If you're interested in that job at Inter-American Development Bank, the link is here.