Shifting the Burden of Corporate Misconduct Onto Individual Wrongdoers
The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently took several steps to strengthen its fight against white-collar crime. In its attempt to promote corporate compliance, the DOJ announced last September that it would focus on two policies: (1) voluntary self-disclosure and (2) compensation incentives with the use of clawbacks. Since then, every U.S. Attorney’s Office has adopted the first policy, a voluntary self-disclosure program. For consistent application of the policy throughout the nation, all the voluntary self-disclosure programs have a common basis: where a company has voluntarily self-disclosed a violation, cooperated, and remediated the issue without other aggravating factors, the DOJ will not seek a guilty plea. Now, on March 2, 2023, U.S. Deputy Attorney General, Lisa Monaco, announced that the DOJ is ready to launch its second policy through a Compensation Incentives and Clawbacks Program (CICP). This pilot program shifts the responsibility of corporate violations from shareholders onto individual wrongdoers, but it is unclear how effective it will be at promoting compliance.
The FTC’s Enforcement Action: GoodRx’s Failure to Protect Its Customers’ Personal Health Information
On February 1, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought an enforcement action against GoodRx, a provider of telehealth and prescription drug services at discounted rates. In a first-of-its-kind action, the FTC alleged that GoodRx violated the Health Breach Notification Rule (HBNR) by sharing their consumers’ confidential health information with several advertising companies. While GoodRx is already facing a $1.5 million penalty for the violation, the FTC has also proposed an order that will require GoodRx to remedy the situation and make several changes to protect confidential health information in the future.
Fighting the Climate Crisis and Public Health Problems: A Step in the Right Direction
On December 20, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a regulation that will require heavy-duty trucks and vehicles to adopt new, more stringent standards in order to reduce smog and pollution. The EPA implemented this measure as part of its Clean Trucks Plan, a three-year plan, created to reduce emissions from heavy-duty vehicles, in hopes of addressing the climate crisis and improving public health. The new standards set by this regulation are stronger than the current ones by more than 80%. Nonetheless, many are disappointed that the regulation is not as stringent as they had hoped for.
Improving Safety and Quality of Care in Poor-Performing Nursing Homes
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) manages an oversight program for nursing homes known as the Special Focus Facilities (SFF) program. Nursing homes that are placed in the program have almost double the deficiencies as other nursing homes, more serious issues in terms of injury and persistent problems that are never addressed. On October 21, 2022, CMS issued a press release regarding changes to its SFF program. The new changes will increase accountability for these facilities and encourage them to make quicker improvements. This action comes following the Biden-Harris Administration’s promise to increase safety and quality of care in poor-performing nursing homes.
OSHA’s New Directive: An Incentive or a Drawback?
In September 2022, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new instruction which broadens the scope of the agency’s inspection program, the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). The previous directive, which went into effect in 2010, allowed OSHA to place employers in the program if its employees committed certain serious violations, especially if they had already been cited for the violation once or received a failure-to-abate notice. The new instruction allows OSHA to place employers in the program that probably would not have met the criteria in the previous directive.
Possible Pitfalls of the New DOJ Compliance Policy
In March 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) introduced a new policy idea that requires a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) undergo certification. This certification requires CCOs to attest at the end of company resolutions that their compliance program is reasonably designed to detect and promptly remedy behavior suspected or known to be in violation of applicable laws. The new policy is part of an effort to take more proactive measures against criminal behavior and activities such as fraud, bribery, corruption, etc. The certification is also aimed at empowering the CCOs as they speak on behalf of their company’s obligations to the compliance program.