Just when you think you’ve heard the worst when it comes to unbelievable cases in court, up pops another example of a lawsuit that defies belief. From suing a home store after tripping over a child to burglars who found another way to get a payout, these cases will make you wonder where we went wrong as a society.
There are double standards in European justice. The standard of immunity is enjoyed by kleptocrats and their kith and kin. The standard of persecution is inflicted on hoi polloi.
No company is above the law, but some firms are allowed much more time in complying with it. Obeying the law is non-negotiable, theoretically. The very existence of the compliance profession, however, implies that the reality is far more complex. Even more intriguing is the fact that, despite having splashed out on compliance like never before post-2008, banks in the United States and Europe had to pay US$65 billion in fines in 2014 alone. Many of the 2014 penalties pertained to violations committed well after the financial crisis by institutions deemed too big to fail. Financial behemoths apparently can afford to take a more wayward path to full compliance.
The financial sector is not unique in this respect. Even public organizations have been known to drag their feet on compliance, sometimes spectacularly – as in the early 20th century when municipalities in the U.S. delayed adopting civil service reform for more than 35 years.
Compliance should not be considered a matter of course. Both when and how it happens is highly dependent on the strategic positioning of the relevant actors. No person or organization is above the law, but the level of urgency with which they react to changes in the law may depend on what they believe they can get away with.
In order for compliance officers to have influence, they must first have both senior management support and visibility at the board level. Otherwise, they run the risk of being shut out of the power-based calculus that governs the public-private sector chessboard.