Nearly a decade after the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and amid heightened FCPA enforcement, the responsibility for shaping what is often called a "culture of compliance" inside U.S. corporations falls heavily on the C-suite - and, more than ever, on the CFO.
A culture in which employees feel they can report illegal activities or abuses can prevent problems from becoming disasters. This pertains not only to financial controls under the CFO's purview but also to a broad range of operational risks, which can result in costly disasters like last year's oil-rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico and the implosion of Enron. In both cases, employees accused top management of ignoring their concerns about dangerous internal practices.
Who to warn, and how, remain open questions at most firms, but "if a CFO says, 'That's not my department,' he or she should be fired," says David Gebler, president of corporate-ethics consultancy Skout Group.
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