I am a partner in the Kaplan & Walker LLP law firm in Princeton, New Jersey.
Ethical Systems Interview (April 2016)
My Approach to Ethical Systems:
I began my professional life in criminal defense but have spent most of the past twenty years practicing compliance-and-ethics (“C&E”) program law, meaning that I help companies conduct C&E risk assessments, draft codes of conduct and other policies/procedures, develop C&E training/communications plans and assess the efficacy of their overall C&E efforts.
I was drawn to this work after being struck by how the traditional view of business crime as based largely on rational calculations by evil individuals often bore little resemblance to the actual cases with which I was familiar. C&E programs hold out considerable promise for reaching the vast number of other people who are not malevolent, but in the wrong set of circumstances can easily make the wrong choice. Still, many of these programs are not nearly as robust as they should be.
Behavioral ethics has, I believe, the potential to help strengthen C&E programs in two types of ways.
First, on a general level, many of its findings can help rebut the notion – prevalent among both government officials and business leaders – that C&E is easy, i.e., a machine that largely runs by itself. The numerous previously unknown or underappreciated difficulties that people have with making ethical choices supports the need for a deeper commitment by companies and enforcement agencies to effective C&E programs.
Second, behavioral ethics offers various specific ways of improving certain aspects of C&E (e.g., risk assessment, training, accountability measures), as described both in the CSj article and on the Conflict of Interest Blog which are linked to below. C&E programs can thus serve as a “delivery device” for bringing behavioral ethics information and ideas into companies – and be viewed as ready-made “ethical systems” waiting for a behavioral ethics upgrade.
My Ethical Systems Research pages include Compliance & Ethics Programs, Conflicts of Interest and Law.
My Major Relevant Publications:
- Compliance Programs and the Corporate Sentencing Guidelines (2012) (edited, with Joseph E. Murphy) (public library). This book examines C&E programs under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations and describes how to prevent and detect violations of law.
- Business Friendly Ethics. Guide in Ethisphere, written with Jonathan Haidt, on how companies can begin using our site to create a workplace with higher levels of trust among colleagues and leadership. (2014).
- “Behavioral Ethics: Don’t Rely Solely on Good Intentions,” article in CSj (2013).
- “Semi-Tough: A Short History of Compliance and Ethics Law,” remarks at a RAND Symposium entitled “Corporate Culture and Ethical Leadership Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines: What Should Boards, Management and Policymakers Do Now?“ (2012).
For more writing on conflicts of interest in business, please see The Conflict of Interest Blog, which also includes posts specific to behavioral ethics and moral hazard.
For various posts on how to assess risks and use this information to develop effective C&E programs, please see my writing as Featured Risk Assessment Columnist for Corporate Compliance Insights.