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Corporate Governance and the Legal Compliance Coordinator

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In the post-Enron and Sarbanes-Oxley environment, allegations of wrongdoing, no matter what the source, have to be carefully evaluated. A preliminary inquiry into the accusations may designate whether the matter is one that should be treated as a violation of internal policy or there is a grave risk of criminal prosecution.

For most corporations legal compliance is an invariable goal that comes above all others. These days the legal and public relations stakes are so demanding that most corporations have built strong compliance and management functions at the corporate and manufacturing levels. Stephen Tully in his Research Handbook on Corporate Legal Responsibility says, “Strict legal compliance is the litmus test underlying sustainable financial profit for any given company, the supreme indicia of public trust and determinative of the social license to operate.”

Legal compliance coordinators have traditionally included those who ensure compliance in areas such as environmental safety, equal employment opportunity, employee health and safety standards, and human resources. More experienced coordinators have additional responsibilities with respect to managing legal compliance with local, state, or federal regulations.

One of the most arduous tasks for an in-house legal compliance coordinator is figuring out how to best represent management when there is an actual possibility of misconduct on the part of management. Should members of management voluntarily disclose facts to the government through a legal compliance coordinator, and how will the investigation committee perceive a compliance program that failed?

In most cases the facts are vague; seldom is the situation clear enough at the outset to determine whether misconduct occurred. Therefore, in some cases outside counsel may be called upon for investigation.

Outside counsel offer certain benefits that in-house legal compliance coordinators may lack as they have specific proficiency and the resources to move promptly. Furthermore, they may be able to influence management to take certain actions more effectively than in-house counsel, who are most likely colleagues as well as friends of management. Training for legal compliance coordinators helps instill high levels of ethical commitment to compliance, assist coordinators in understanding the technicalities of their work, and develop arrangements for obtaining specialized legal interpretations from outside counselors.


One of the key obstacles to monitoring corporate legal compliance and social responsibility is the paucity of standardized public data. Compulsory reporting on these aspects could assist investors and public interest organizations with evaluating organizational performance and with enabling top management to benchmark their own progress.


Tully, Stephen. Research Handbook on Corporate Legal Responsibility. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2005.
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Legal Compliance Cornerstone of Corporate Governance

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 environments  managers  responsibility  Enron  gains  Sarbanes-Oxley Act  functions

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