The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to recommend that Congress toughen standards for effective ethics and compliance programs, including assigning corporate officers and directors greater responsibility for the oversight and operations of such programs. The standards, which apply to for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, spell out the circumstances under which the existence of a corporate compliance program may justify reduced fines for criminal violations. The commission will submit its recommendations to Congress May 1; the changes cannot become effective until Nov. 1. If approved, the changes would be the first to the organizational sentencing guidelines since 1991. In a unanimous vote, the commission backed revised guidelines that would describe effective ethics and compliance programs as those in which compliance officers have "sufficient authority and resources to carry out their responsibilities" and in which corporate officers and executives take an "active leadership role." The seven-member commission is an independent agency of the federal judiciary that sets national sentencing policy. Read the commission's news release on its recommendations. -- by Mark Taylor
Tougher rules proposed for compliance programs
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