Compliance requires strength

Dear reader,

The German writer Goethe himself is quoted with the conclusion as follows: “if one would study all legal texts, one would not have time at all to breach them”. Perhaps that’s why some companies, after having made relevant experience, have fenced in themselves with a network of compliance regulations and are now stuck in immobility. This, however, was exactly not the very purpose of the exercise.

In fact, compliance is much more than a collection of legal texts. It is always a position, too. If the company’s internal compass works correctly, compliance regulations will not scare. Surely, managers have here a particular responsibility to demonstrate this internal compass to employees and to act as role model for a compliant behavior which serves as integral component of corporate culture. The message needs to be clear: we comply with the playing rules. We conform to laws, regulations, agreements and internal company guidelines. We shall not make deals which can only materialize by breaching these rules. Only by means of this clear position, reputational damages, always linked to breach of compliance rules, for the company as well as for the responsible managers and employees - apart from legal risks - can be avoided.

Quite often, perpetrators lack any conscience of unlawful behavior. Notions such as “others do it the same way” or “what I did was good for my company as only by doing so, we got the contract” do not help in front of a judge. No court will accept this as excuse for misconduct. That’s why it is only all about creating sensibility in time and again for compliance issues. And this is true not only for heavy-duty breaches such as corruption, cartel breaches or disloyalty. Even working life needs to be designed in a lawful way.  Jugglers, phoneys and fouls who enjoy to foul employees provoke law suits and, thus, make lawyers alerted. Managers, too, are no longer hesitant to accept legal assistance and juridical support if they feel treated unfair or in breach of the labour contract by their employer. As a matter of fact, breach of compliance rules will result in unwanted legal consequences, in the worst case in criminal charges, in demands of regress as well as in reputational damages. None of it is needed in a company or on a personal basis.

The one who is not yet convinced by this, should consider another issue. Having arguments with lawyers is like wrestling with wild boars in the mud. After hours and hours, one is totally exhausted and recognizes: they like it!

Wishing you an inspiring reading of the latest issue of “Perspektives” – this time focusing on “Compliance”.  


Ulrich Goldschmidt