Erin E. Harrison, InsideCounsel Editor-in-Chief
Erin E. Harrison, InsideCounsel Editor-in-Chief

At this time of year, it’s natural to be optimistic, to think of the bright, cheery side of business, rather than the sordid underbelly.

But that dark side of business is where many compliance professionals operate, and they—and their general counsel colleagues—are forced to deal with the worst aspects of corruption and graft. These days, we hear more and more stories about major multinational corporations coming under fire for violating policies such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

As contributing editor Ed Silverstein notes (p. 22), crime does not pay. FCPA enforcement is on the rise, and large enterprises must keep this in mind when designing their compliance departments.

Part of the reason that the FCPA is so prominent these days is the rise of U.S.-style litigation. As assistant editor Zach Warren points out (p. 34), government regulations like the FCPA here in the U.S. and the U.K. Bribery Act abroad have increased the prevalence of thorough document-discovery and retention tactics in litigation proceedings around the world. Like cheeseburgers and basketball, U.S.-style litigation, for better or for worse, has now spread around the globe.

One major aspect of compliance is avoiding crises, but another, often more important component of compliance is dealing with these crises when they occur. The bigger the crisis, the tougher it is for a company to bounce back from penalties, reputational damage and financial loss. That’s why it takes an individual with a specific skill set to be a successful chief compliance officer or GC.

Suzanne Rich Folsom (p. 16) is a shining example of someone who has the grace under fire to succeed even when things get tough. She successfully shepherded American International Group through the worst shockwaves of the financial crisis, then worked her compliance magic at private security firm Academi (formerly Blackwater International), and now she serves as the general counsel and senior vice president, governmental affairs, at U.S. Steel, where she brings her compliance expertise to one of the proudest companies in U.S. history.

In many ways, the GC acts as that classic figurehead of the summer: the lifeguard. She watches the waves to make sure no sharks are looming and, if we are in trouble, she swims out to rescue us and bring us back from dangerous waters. So, as you gear up for your summer vacation, think about compliance and the role it plays in business. Then enjoy yourself. It is a vacation, after all.