The "Designated Felon"

by  David Carlson, President & CEO 2. January 2013


Should a major compliance failure occur that leads to criminal charges, who will bear the blame and accept the consequences? 

Who is your company’s ‘designated felon?’ 

Compliance content providers have often joked about this question as a way of getting the attention of the possible customers even though it was an  uncomfortable question to ask.

Certainly many companies were unprepared to answer; joking or not.

Unfortunately, a global oil company was recently forced to answer, the result of a drilling platform disaster that resulted in multiple deaths and massive damage.

The company and the U.S. recently arrived at a settlement that included a payment in the billions of dollars and a guilty plea to misdemeanor charges for two of the company’s employees.  Both employees will serve time in federal prison.

Knowing who would be blamed should a company compliance disaster occur makes just such a scenario a real possibility, and gets employees to operate accordingly. 

If you’re the company’s ‘designated felon,’ wouldn’t you work that much harder to keep this question in merely “hypothetical” status?

This requires a plan for monitoring and assessing EHS regulations, i.e. operational risk management and regulatory compliance software.

When some organizations are asked about their plans, they admit privately that they do not have any and are prepared to accept whatever fines and sanctions may occur.

This approach is not only unsafe; it’s unsustainable and would not withstand public scrutiny.  This secretive tactic would certainly increase both the penalties and public outrage should violations be detected.

Any organization not addressing the monumental issues surrounding its compliance responsibilities is at greater risk each day.

And the lesson is a harsh one, as at least two of the former employees  of the global oil company can attest.

It is important to know within the company who would be implicated should a compliance failure occur, and to have a system in place to remain compliant.

The threat of repercussions from non-compliance is a powerful motivator to create a plan to be compliant. 

So, who is your “designated felon,” and what is your plan to maintain regulatory compliance? 

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