Compliance and The Dab

Ryan Whitney
Managing Editor
Loyola University School of Law, JD 2017


Dabbing has taken pop culture by storm in just the last year. Popularized by Carolina Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton, the dance move is now seen in all sorts of sports celebrations, dance adaptations, videos and promotions. It is a fad, a craze — here one day, gone the next. America has seen many of these (remember Tebowing?) and has seen them all go. Compliance, a legal field that must anticipate the latest regulatory craze, shares parallels to these pop culture manias.

The Latest Crazes

A year ago today, dabbing was almost completely unheard of. Cam Newton did not elevate the dance move to the household name it has now become until November of 2015. But it existed. The dab lurked for three years in the hip-hop community before it ever became a prominent focus of social media and pop culture. It could have emerged at anytime, from anyone who garnished enough fame and attention to be noticed. Now it has become so prominent that the 94 year-old Betty White has been seen imitating the move.

Will dabbing persist in pop culture? Doubtful. If history tells us anything, dabbing will linger on for a year or two more and then fade away as another fad takes its place. This new fad likely exists right now but has not yet been discovered, as was the case for so many phenomenons in just the last decade. A few years ago you could not find a person who had not heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge. People poured ice cold water on themselves after calling on their friends and family members to do the same, hence the challenge. But today you will find no such video on your Facebook feed. The craze has come and gone.

And yet no two fads are alike. Some, like the Ice Bucket Challenge, come on furiously for a few months and then die quickly. Others, like dog shaming, are more persistent but far more subtle. In fact, you may have seen dogs with signs on their necks without having realized you were witnessing “dog shaming.” And let us not forget Pokemon Go, the smartphone game that became the summer sensation of 2016. Pokemon Go’s own creator did not anticipate the frenzy it would trigger. Servers crashed, cell phone towers became congested, and injuries were sustained by distracted gamers. Much to Kim Kardashian’s envy, it broke the Internet.

There are also trends that only affect certain populations like the man bun which is largely seen in hipster communities. Hipsters themselves have become something of a trend. Forged out of a desire for nonconformity and a lack of classification, the hipster movement has ironically grown to such an extent that they have been classified and defined. This trend has lasted quite some time and draws parallels to the hippie movement of the 1960’s. In fact for my older readers who are wondering what a hipster is, they are something of a millennial hippie. To my hipster readers, I meant no offense by comparing you to those greedy baby boomers.

Compliance Crazes

You may now find yourself wondering how in the world these trends can possibly relate to compliance. The answer is not as concrete as you might think. There will likely be no policies created on dabbing protocol or Pokemon Go playing methods. No meetings will be held by compliance departments wondering what to do about the man buns on the streets or the epidemic of naughty pets who require shaming. Thankfully the government has not regulated these aspects of our lives. But many parts have been.

The nature of compliance is much like the dab. There are so many dance moves that it is impossible to know about all of them and there’s no knowing when one may supersede another. The law operates in the same, if not greater, way. Due to the colossal amount of regulations, compliance departments cannot feasibly know every single law they must comply with but instead must strategically predict which ones to focus on.

Along with an abundance of laws on the books, new ones crop up every month. These are what create new regulatory crazes. Transgender bathroom laws? Yes, that’s a regulatory craze. It came out of nowhere and has engulfed the nation in a debate that always existed but never surfaced in the mainstream. Now schools, companies and hospitals must wade through a very sensitive, private, and controversial issue. To make matters worse, the law is not clear. If you’re a hospital in North Carolina your compliance officers are likely stressing over distinctions between state and federal authority, medical gender designations, as well as ethical factors that contribute to the policy you must now draft. The duration of this regulatory frenzy is yet to be determined since it is so new.

A longer lasting craze is that of cybersecurity. Beginning in 2005, states began enacting data breach notification laws. But cybersecurity should be on every compliance officer’s mind as the SEC announced that it will be conducting its review of cybersecurity policies as part of its routine examinations of registrants. The SEC is particularly concerned with policies concerning:

  • Prevention, detection, and responses to cyber-attacks
  • IT training
  • Vendor access
  • Vendor due diligence

Regardless of what the SEC or other government agencies choose to focus on, cybersecurity is quickly gaining traction as the trendy regulation of our time. Due to increases in hacking and malware attacks, compliance programs should be on high alert and working with their IT departments to prepare themselves for the oncoming audits, investigations, and breaches. For additional cyber information on what firms should focus on, visit the ACA Compliance Group’s guidance here.

For regulations that have been clearly emphasized such as cybersecurity, it is important to utilize internal audits to ensure the entity will successfully endure an inspection or hacking attempt. But other regulations, much like pop culture fads, come and go with varying levels of intensity and forewarning. New issues can arise completely out of the blue. This calls for a great deal of flexibility in a compliance department. Due to the unpredictable nature of these fads, compliance employees should make use of new law grids that track newly enacted legislation as well as anticipated points of focus for regulating agencies. Hopefully, with this in mind, compliance programs can make regulatory fads an easier burden to overcome.