Recent major corporate financial scandals have heightened interest in ombuds by government enforcement agencies and shareowners, demanding greater accountability of corporate directors and officers, paralleling the rapid expansion of the compliance profession.
Ombuds are an increasing presence in the private sector and particularly in many business law specialties – financial services, employment, healthcare, international, regulatory, ethics and compliance, and risk management among numerous others – mostly under the radar of business lawyers.
Top Nine Things Every Business Lawyer Should Know About Ombuds
- “Ombuds” is gender-neutral shorthand for “ombudsman.”
- Originated about 200 years ago, “classical” ombuds are government officials serving as citizen advocates to investigate and prosecute government misconduct.
- There are no licensing or other requirements for ombuds, nor any uniform definition or description of what they do.
- Over the years, the ombuds concept has been adapted and applied in various ways. New meanings and models have emerged.
- One evolution has been to the private mediator model, called “organizational” ombuds. They operate under the principles of independence, neutrality, confidentiality, and informality. Though they do various things, most of the everyday work of an organizational ombuds is in issue resolution.
- Organizational ombuds emerged in the United States in the 1960s largely in response to college campus unrest, and over the years have spread to hospitals, some large corporations, and other institutions, such as newspapers and government agencies.
- Recent major corporate financial scandals have heightened interest in ombuds by government enforcement agencies and shareowners, demanding greater accountability of corporate directors and officers, paralleling the rapid expansion of the compliance profession.
- A new Business Law Section Dispute Resolution Committee Ombuds Subcommittee has been formed to serve as an information resource and as a vehicle for timely and effective engagement in developments in the evolving field of organizational ombuds.
- Ombuds Subcommittee membership is free for Business Law Section members. Join the Dispute Resolution Committee and the Ombuds Subcommittee today!