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7 compliance highlights of 2020

Chips with letters and the Stay safe is formed from them (1)What's in it:

2020 hit hard if not everyone and most of the challenges taught us a lot. Compliance is not the same already, but its image in 2021 is even more blurry and full of urgent problems to which departments, teams, and individuals need to respond. We've always got you covered in Ethicontrol with updates from the industry and real-life ethics — here is what we think about compliance in 2020.


1. Notes for a compliance officer 


The world of compliance has always been challenged by economic crises and improving technologies, but the pandemic time added more important risks considering. Here is what was not new but worth attention in 2020:

  • Constant and versatile risk evaluation from the bottom to the top. Seems well-known, but Goldman and Sachs proved it differently with a long history of established control mechanisms and the biggest corruption deals this year.
  • Regular follow-up with new technologies and regulations. Data leaks are real, and even the strictest data protection law can leave you exposed to multiple security threats — it's better to keep up with the news and stay safe. 
  • Strategy. For today and tomorrow, and in 2021 — every company needs to have a compliance strategy, goals, and prognosis. Reacting to current challenges is also important, but not enough to stay in the competition.

2. Key regulations and laws


The long-expected EU Directive on Whistleblowing is in its middle phase, and in 2020 EU member countries started to implement legislative initiatives to join the Directive on the domestic level. While we are waiting for that to finally happen in 2021, India joined the countries with dedicated laws on whistleblowing. And more from 2020 highlights — we can't miss the boom of data protection regulations all over the world. Brazil, Thailand, and California introduced new data protection regulations in 2020.

Last, but not least — the Anti-Money Laundering Directive of the European Union was finally released with two complementary laws. We can't be more excited to see this regulation working after multiple challenges the EU faced with tax avoidance cases.


3. New standards and frameworks


We've covered a new COSO Framework guidance on the dedicated webinar, but need to say it one more time. Guidance for the COSO framework application was released in November 2020 — COSO Enterprise Risk Management. The guidance revealed important insights on how two frameworks for compliance&ethics and risk evaluation can overlap and be used together. We recommend every professional look through and update the company's current policies.

ISO 37002 — A crucial for the world of compliance standard ISO 37002, which serves as a guide for whistleblowing systems' management. In August 2020, the standard's inquiry draft was approved — we are looking forward to the 2021 and ISO 37002 final release. 


4. Key players


Not much to add to leading anti-fraud organizations and entities — DOJ, SEC, PNF (France), and European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) entered our list of good-performing and perspective for further cooperation players. An additional shoutout should be given to Transparency International, which continued to work and revealed many unfortunate regressions in transparency and good governance.


5. Key incidents of 2020


Globe from space with light and designation of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google officesWe could name so many, as the year was full of revelations and achievements, even though not always positive. Three highlights from Ethicontrol would be about social responsibility, justice, and data protection.

Ethicontrol commemorates Li Wenilang, one of the first whistleblowers to raise awareness about COVID-19 and the pandemic response. Whistleblowing took place in many other spheres and companies in 2020, and the Amazon work conditions scandal caught our attention. Whistleblowers protested against the violation of sanitary norms during the pandemic, and low wages and exposed the corporation's mistreatment — that's the ethics we are pursuing in our daily work. And the last event, which is far from ending — the Big Four hearing on data processing and data protection. We've learned a lot about customer rights and weaknesses — more revelations are coming for Facebook, Google, and Amazon. 

6.  Top FCPA cases 


The plane in the cloudy skyAt the beginning of 2020 notorious Airbus was expected to lead the list of corruption accusations of all times in FCPA history — $4 billion were paid by the company in total to all the parties with violated statutes. Airbus had to pay the DOJ $2.09 billion to resolve charges under FCPA and surpassed Petrobras with its $1.78 billion penalties in 2018. Airbus had to settle charges in the UK and France, which eventually resulted in $4 billion of charges in total.

Yet, a second corporation joined the top records of 2020 corruption and overscored even Airbus — $2.9 billion is a final settlement imposed by DOJ for Goldman and Sachs (or $3.3 billion by a different evaluation). The Goldman Sachs Group has to pay over $5 billion in total to settle with the DOJ, SEC, and the government of Malaysia, which is also a record-breaking corruption settlement in history.

2020 apparently was fruitful for DOJ and SEC, but FCPA violations' tendency is a warning — in 2019 the highest penalty was paid by Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and totaled $1.06 billion. 2020's penalties are twice and even three times as much as in the case of Goldman Sachs.


How corrupt 2021 will be — we'll see. 


7. Top posts from Ethicontrol


We are here for you, and your feedback is important for us to get better and share valuable content. The top articles among our readers were:

Thank you for the 2020 – we are looking forward to spending 2021 together and sharing more insights to keep the world ethical!


Credits for the photos:

Kelly SikkemaG-R MottezOlga Subach and Nelly Antoniadou