Overarching causes described in the report are not surprising; control failures, an overly aggressive focus on short-term growth, and excessive risk taking are among the high level issues addressed. Also in the report, however, are scores of more detailed explanations of control failures in more than 20 different categories. Specific problems on the list include:
One of the most substantial trends we expected to see in governance, risk, and compliance in 2008 is the tightening of regulations in response to major risk management failures. Yesterday, we saw a clear example of that, as the US Senate approved a bill that would nearly double the size of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, largely in response to the massive toy recalls that took place last year.
Also this week, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency showed signs of cracking down on disclosure of drug trial results after problems persisted with certain anti-depressant drugs in relation to teenage suicide (even though criminal charges will not be filed).
The sub-prime issue may likely be the next major target for legislative changes, although most discussion seems to be focused on consumer protection at this point, not tighter control over lenders.
It has been a busy few weeks of news for whistleblowers. Earlier this month, former Merck sales manager H. Dean Steinke was awarded $68 million of the roughly $400 million recovered by states and federal agencies when the company settled a lawsuit he brought against it seven years ago. (This was part of a larger $671 million Merck paid to settle complaints of overcharging government health plans and offering inappropriate incentives to doctors to prescribe its products.)
While a number of whistleblowers have been lauded by the press over the years, Steinke’s $68 million presents the possibility of more tangible incentives to those aspiring to expose corporate crimes. Other recent, related news includes:
- Court extends SOX whistleblower protection. Last week, a US District Court judge in New York found that whistleblower protection under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act applies to employees outside the United States, helping empower virtual armies of international employees that may have something to report.
The media yesterday (Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Economist, etc.) were all over 31-year-old Jérôme Kerviel, the trader at France’s Société Générale who has apparently confessed to fraudulent trades resulting in an estimated loss of roughly $7.2 billion.
In further coverage, we hear that the bank has apologized to share holders, filed legal claims against Kerviel, and promised the public that the incident does not suggest any larger issues with the company’s risk management. The Wall Street Journal however, follows up with a story questioning the effectiveness of regulatory oversight that can let something like this transpire despite Société Générale’s claims that controls were adequately tested and did not fail.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) has been seemingly more newsworthy than usual recently (even impacting Hollywood elite), with somewhat conflicting accounts of the US cracking down on bribery both here and abroad, and the rationale for the US to accept some level of bribery for the sake of broader national interests.
The holiday season gave media and industry one more opportunity to discuss Mattel’s massive product recalls this year, and admittedly, I still find myself interested in the story.In this case, it was the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s article calling out Mattel’s “Epiphany at Christmas”.
The revelation: “If it's got your company's name on it, it's your problem.”
Great article this morning in the Wall Street Journal about Goldman Sachs’ performance during the credit meltdown. The company has expectations of record income this year, while competitors are faltering left and right.
There are three important issues in this story — and in the sub-prime crisis in general — that all good risk management professionals know, and should keep in mind as often as possible.
I’m not usually one for ‘this-could-happen-to-you’ stories, but I’m still having trouble getting over last month’s story about grocery giant Tesco having to turn over 11 million emails to the UK’s Competition Commission for their investigation into possible anti-competitive practices against its suppliers.