Among the breakout sessions at the Global Ethics Summit was a panel discussion on compliance and the anti-corruption landscape.

As Donna Dabney, executive director, Governance Center of The Conference Board, noted, in the 80s and 90s there were incentives for corporations to not have a compliance function for fear that they would have to report issues to authorities. Clearly, those times have changed, particularly in the last few years as the U.S. government has set clear compliance guidelines for businesses.

U.S. businesses have demonstrated that they are willing to work with the government to enforce these standards, and as a result, the U.S. leads most nations in business compliance standards.

“You have to push compliance to the highest level,” said Kathryn Ditmars, global litigation director with JLL.

But while businesses in the U.S. may have a leg up on their foreign counterparts, there are a growing number of local compliance guidelines that challenge businesses.

The discussion went to the importance that the rule of law plays in global business and how organizations are at risk in certain areas of the world where corruption is more apparent.

Dabney noted her experience with a former employer in Russia, and how the business decided to not give in to local leaders who were looking for bribes. “We were the weird Americans, but that was OK,” she added.

Ditmars emphasized the importance of communication to promote best practices within an organization. The panelists also noted that in today’s media landscape, it’s easy to see when firms are the subject of ethics investigations or the victim of wrongdoing. And while some “public hangings” are anonymized, it’s easy to shore up your business leadership and assess the simple question: “What are we doing to avoid this?”

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