June 20, 2016

Our Mini-Theme: The Many Faces of Compliance

Brian T. Sumner

In this edition of Business Law Today, the Corporate Compliance Committee presents a set of articles that highlights the multifaceted nature of compliance. The articles presented here range from human trafficking to aircraft financing. While there are scant connections among the underlying areas of law reflected in this BLT mini-theme, the articles together – and certain of them individually – highlight the nature of compliance as a discipline that crosses multiple areas of law, as opposed to an area of law itself.

At its origins, “compliance” is about the rules that govern behavior and expectations – from governments, employers, industry regulators, and others. Compliance focuses on how we communicate such rules, how we comply with them, and what we do when we violate them. The conflicts of laws that dot the legal landscape (in some cases more severely than in others) flow down to the discipline of compliance, and we as “compliance” practitioners wrestle with those conflicts.

Of late, the discipline of compliance has often been construed more broadly. In many contexts, compliance has merged with ethics: how we “must” act has combined with how we “should” act. This has evolved the discipline compliance by complementing a historically rules-based system with a principles-based system. Many companies have taken this approach to managing employee behavior, and – as is reflected in the article in this issue on the Yates Memorandum – the government has, too.

The membership of the Corporate Compliance Committee mirrors the nature of compliance as a multipronged discipline. Our members practice in financial services, white-collar crime, labor law, environmental law, commercial law, and international law, among others. We have lawyer members from academia, private practice, corporate law departments, and nonprofit organizations. We regularly collaborate with non-lawyers whose work parallels our own. Our CLE programs are often collaborations with other substantive committees.

I hope you enjoy these articles and encourage you to engage with the Corporate Compliance Committee more deeply.

Brian T. Sumner

Brian T. Sumner
Chair, Corporate Compliance Committee