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Accounting and consulting organization BDO USA is preparing to release a new survey of public company boards of directors, which shows that boards are now counting risk management as their top concern. The 2011 BDO Board Survey compiles data gathered from more than 100 directors at public companies with revenues between $250 million and $750 million. Risk management factored into many of the survey’s results, with more than half of respondents identifying it as the topic they should be spending more time on, and 61 percent saying that their liability risk has increased during the financial downturn. “In recent years, the responsibilities of corporate boards have grown considerably and much of their time has been dedicated to responding to new regulatory requirements,” says Wendy Hambleton, a partner in BDO’s corporate governance practice, in a statement about the survey results. “What we are seeing in this study is a willingness of boards to take a more proactive role in risk management and it seems to be related to the risk they face as directors.” Despite this shift in attitudes about risk, the study found that 53 percent of the companies surveyed do not have a chief risk officer or similar executive position focused on minimizing risk; two thirds of the boards surveyed do not have a risk committee. BDO also asked the board members about the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s new Dodd-Frank whistleblower rules, and the respondents focused specifically on the bounty payments that whistleblowers may be entitled to if they report corporate malfeasance directly to the agency, with 78 percent predicting that the rewards will lead to an increase in false allegations. However, two thirds of the directors do not think that the bounties will undermine existing internal anti-fraud and compliance programs. The study found a similar level of support for a legislative update that would require whistleblowers to report internally first in order to qualify for SEC bounties. The full study provides more detail on risk-management issues within corporate boards, as well as focused responses about accounting standards, relationships between boards and auditors, and board transparency. BDO plan to release the complete results of the 2011 BDO Board Survey at the end of September. See also: “What are GCs and Directors Thinking About Corporate Governance?,” CorpCounsel, August 2011.

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