The more things change, the more they stay the same. This time last year, we summarized the top 10 ESG stories of 2021, and those three letters continued to dominate our coverage this year. But we brought you much more than that, including coverage of FCPA enforcement actions, ethical lapses by world leaders, ongoing Covid-19 impacts and more. In no particular order, here are the top 10 compliance stories of 2022, as voted on by our editors.
Biden Administration ushers in new era of antitrust enforcement — but it’s not all smooth sailing
Through both the DOJ and the FTC, the Biden Administration continued its aggressive pursuit of companies accused of anti-competitive practices, focusing heavily on mergers and acquisitions, collusion, price-fixing and Covid-era issues like supply chain disruptions.
Our contributors offered a variety of insights for businesses and compliance leaders in particular:
- The New Era of Antitrust Enforcement
- Antitrust Chief Outlines Aggressive Approach to Enforcement in Digital Markets
- DOJ’s Criminal Antitrust Division Raises the Stakes for Ethics and Compliance With Inter-Agency and International Support
- Unpacking New Sets of Challenges for Compliance Committees: Renewed DOJ Focus on Corporate Crime and Antitrust
- DOJ is Using Existing Antitrust Law in Aggressive and Unconventional Ways. Compliance and the Board Should Take Stock.
- ‘Interlocking Boards’ Likely Targets of Increased Antitrust Investigations
- Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going: Antitrust Law Updates and Their Reporting Obligations
- How Can Outside Counsel Sidestep Ethical Pitfalls in Internal Investigations of Antitrust Wrongdoing?
But while the administration has been more aggressive than past administrations (in FY 2022, the DOJ’s Antitrust Division charged 31 corporations, more than double the number that were charged in 2019), that’s not to say there hasn’t been pushback. After a series of courtroom rebukes, which you might have read about here (be prepared for poultry puns), the year came to a close with a judge dismissing antitrust charges against a former chicken executive for allegations of price-fixing.
Elon Musk freaks everybody out
Tesla founder Elon Musk’s will-he-or-won’t-he dance with his proposed purchase of social media platform Twitter ended when the acquisition concluded Oct. 27. But in between, our contributors highlighted some of the compliance and risk issues the mercurial Musk generates:
- Know Your Customer? Know Your Human. Compliance Lessons from Elon Musk’s Promised Assault on Twitterbots
- As Musk’s Tweet Inadvertently Illustrates, the Letter of the Law Has Its Limits
And that likely won’t be the final word on the matter, given that the company has acknowledged that Musk is under investigation in connection with the purchase.
AI risks continue to proliferate (but companies are still using it)
Whether for their main business functions or for risk management and compliance itself, firms pressed on with expanding the use of AI, machine learning and similar technologies. And in medicine, banking, hiring and everywhere else, the risks just kept on expanding. Here’s a look at some of the AI risk stories we published this year:
- AI Could Prove the Magic Pill for Health Care, But Compliance Concerns Are a Common Side Effect
- Banking the Unbanked Carries Risk (That AI Modeling Can Mitigate)
- Q&A: For Effective Financial Crime Prevention, Build a Better Mix of Machines and Humans
- Algorithms Behaving Badly: New NYC Law Tackles Bias in Hiring Technology
- Big Benefits of Advanced Tech for FinCrime Compliance Don’t Kick in Until Silos Are Toppled
- Still Racist After All These Datasets: Once Bias Is Baked Into Your AI, It’s Hard to Root Out
Impact of Monaco memo continues, and a new version rolls out
Just before Halloween in 2021, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco gave companies everywhere a fright by issuing revisions to the DOJ’s corporate criminal enforcement policies, reaffirming that investigators will pursue action against any individuals involved in corporate misconduct and, possibly, to expand the use of monitorships. Less than a year later, Monaco further clarified the DOJ’s position after an evaluation of policy by the department’s corporate crime advisory group.
Our contributors offered a variety of analysis and deep-dives on what Monaco’s missives mean for companies and their compliance teams:
- DOJ Signals Expanded Use of Independent Monitors for Corporate Criminal Enforcement
- DOJ Doubles Down on Data, Raising the Stakes for Proactive Information Governance
- The Monaco Doctrine: A Jolt for Compliance
- Monaco Memo 2.0: Companies Should Start Preparing Now for Future DOJ Investigations
- 8 Critical Actions to Enjoy the Carrot & Avoid the Stick of DOJ’s Corporate Enforcement Policies
We have the receipts: Compliance is a tough job
Here at CCI, we kicked off the year by publishing the results of our in-depth survey into the working conditions, stress and mental health of compliance officers. (Download your copy here if you haven’t checked it out yet.) And over the course of 2022, few topics got more coverage than the internal and external pressures on those responsible for compliance and risk management in organizations.
Here’s a sampling of writing on how and why compliance is such a hard job — and how it can be made better:
- Study: 1 in 3 Major Corporations Have Ineffective Codes of Conduct
- Gartner Says the Pandemic Has Reduced Compliance Reporting 30%
- Recent SEC Charges Suggest CCOs Have Target on Their Backs
- Why ‘Quiet Quitting’ Could Harm Ethics & Compliance Functions
- 5 Tips to Gain Compliance on Your Compliance Training
- Why Our Best Employees Don’t Speak Up
- ‘Secondhand Trauma’ a Risk for Professionals Who Handle Sensitive Investigations
Coming soon to the US: Federal cryptocurrency regulations
So far in 2022 (as of Dec. 1), the price of bitcoin has fallen by nearly 65%, prompted largely by the stunning demise of FTX, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. Regardless of which players will be left in the industry, one thing is clear: U.S. federal regulations are coming — soon (-ish).
After issuing an executive order in March, the Biden Administration in September published a raft of policy recommendations, including developing efficiency standards for cryptocurrency mining. Here’s a look at some of what we published on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology in 2022:
- El Salvador’s Crypto-Bro President Is Flirting with AML Disaster
- To Ensure Anti-Ransomware Compliance in Crypto Transactions, Financial Institutions Have a Mountain to Climb
- Q&A: The SEC Would Love to Regulate Cryptocurrencies, But So Far, Their Efforts Are Hobbled. What’s the Current and Future State for Investment Managers?
- Where the Money Is: Cryptocurrency Industry Grapples With Rising Cybersecurity Risks
- Unpacking Biden’s Crypto Executive Order
All ESG, all the time
Perhaps no other topic was more fully covered on these pages than ESG. From meditations on the substance of hotly anticipated final rules from the SEC on ESG disclosures to the nitty-gritty of how companies can (and should) actually go about establishing their ESG programs, our pages were full of hot takes:
- The Clean Energy Transition Is Not ESG
- Effective and Efficient Pre-Transaction FCPA Diligence: How to Leverage Compliance and ESG to Avoid Buyer’s Remorse and Other Headaches
- How ESG Alignment Can Spur Employee Retention and Attract Future Talent
- More Focus on ESG Means More Scrutiny, Litigation and Enforcement, Too
- SEC is Poised to Clear the Air on ESG Reporting. That Means Your Company Has Less Than Six Months to Prepare.
- Best Way to Navigate the Climate Disclosures Movement? Listen to the Institutional Investors Driving the Conversation.
- Incoming ESG Regulatory Requirements: Why It’s About Strategy First, Metrics Second
- Understanding Board’s Expanding ESG Obligations (Hint: It’s Not Just About the Environment)
Russian invasion of Ukraine puts global conflict front-and-center for risk & compliance teams
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in late February, there were clear and immediate indications the event would roil the global community, including raising the price of oil and impacting global supply chains. But those effects were felt in our corner of the world, too, from new U.S. sanctions to cybersecurity attacks to crisis management.
Here are just a few of the ways we covered Russia’s actions in 2022:
- Did Putin Invade Ukraine to Expand State Corruption?
- Biden Administration Ramps Up Enforcement of Russia Sanctions and Export Controls. Here’s What Compliance Teams Need to Know.
- Q&A: Have You or Will You Be Sanctioned? How Will You Know? The Russia-Ukraine Conflict Introduces Remarkable and Continuously Evolving Risks
- Casualties of War: Global Conflict’s Threat to Business Is a Call to Arms for Cross-Functional Teams
- Ukraine War Highlights Importance of Banks Investing in the Future of Compliance
SOX hits the big 2-0
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed in 2002, with near-unanimous bipartisan support, after scandals like Enron and Worldcom caused widespread investor discomfort. In the 20 years since, SOX has become one of the chief obsessions in public company governance, though it’s not without its detractors. Our contributors had their points to make about it, too:
- SOX Compliance Is as Old as ‘American Idol.’ How Much Younger Is Your Tech?
- Does Your Company Have a Comprehensive Compliance Program? You Can Probably Thank SOX for That.
- A Modest SOX Proposal: Require Compliance Certification Before Something Goes Wrong, Not After
War, pandemic & workforce shortages complicate already-tangled supply chains
A large-scale product recall caused a late-spring/summer run on baby formula, leaving shelves bare and parents scrambling to find replacements. While the formula shortage understandably dominated the headlines and put supply chain woes in stark focus, individuals in the risk and compliance space have long been wary of the complexities of the global supply chain.
Most observers blame the current supply chain problems on factors like global instability, the rising cost of living, labor disputes, workforce shortages and inflationary pressures, but compliance and risk professionals can add a few items to that list: ESG, forced labor and third-party risk.
Here’s a look at what our contributors wrote about supply chain issues in 2022:
- Green Incentives Can Kickstart the Decarbonization of Your Supply Chain
- Where in the World Is Joe’s Blood?
- Where Does Your Cotton Come From? Dismantling Global Forced Labor Requires Pinpoint Supply Chain Transparency