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Takeaways from Compliance Week 2024 by Kyle Brasseur, Editor-in-Chief

 

The biggest strength of Compliance Week’s National Conference in Washington, D.C., as told to me by attendees each year, is its ability to remain approachable in size and scope.

Year 19 of the event, held April 2-4 at The Westin Washington in downtown D.C., was no different, despite a new venue and new month earlier than past iterations. With more than 450 attendees present for the three-day conference, we were once again able to deliver a diverse crowd that offered the reassurance of familiar faces and novel thought leadership without feeling like there was too much to see and do in too little time.

I believe this to be our sweet spot, and I’m glad this year’s event once again delivered. I found the content to be invigorating as well, covering top-of-mind topics including artificial intelligence (AI), climate-related disclosures, and best practices for meeting the expectations of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in addition to softer-skill conversations on compliance career paths and optimizing program efficiency.

People at a conference

Below are highlights from the event. 

Compliance takes center stage

Who better to learn from in a compliance forum than someone navigating the same challenges and pain points the role offers?

This year’s CW conference took care to place chief compliance officers willing to candidly share their perspectives and experiences in prominent speaker slots. A  saw Andrew McBride, the former CCO and chief risk officer at Albemarle Corp., discuss in detail the steps the chemical company took on its way to a  with the DOJ for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations that included the agency’s highest penalty reduction recorded under its revised corporate enforcement policy.

The biggest difference-maker, he said, was the support of the company’s senior leadership and board to be willing to invest in the systems he knew it needed to tackle its many issues exposed by the ordeal.

“That support from leadership—that I knew they had my back in driving the compliance program—was incredibly powerful,” said McBride. “I didn’t have to address the associated politics that sometimes come with compliance.”

A Day 3 panel took attendees “” by analyzing the data of our annual survey through the eyes of three senior leaders and CW Advisory Board members. Audience members offered their responses to the survey questions and participated in engaging discussions on compliance reporting lines, corporate culture, and more.

People sitting on chairs on a stage

Companies offer compelling case studies

Breakout sessions continued the tone established on the main stage by featuring a handful of panels that showcased the accomplishments—or hard lessons learned—of compliance officers and their counterparts at a variety of companies.

I sat in the room for a fascinating breakdown by four individuals at Capital One regarding how the financial services firm’s digital compliance program library came to be and the hurdles overcome across the development of the product. Another standout included Michael Koenig, chief ethics and compliance officer at JBS, sharing his experience coming from a legal background to take over as the new CCO of a company that had just completed an FCPA settlement.

“When you’re in private practice, you control your cases,” he said. “When you’re the chief compliance officer of a $70 billion company, you don’t control anything.”

Other case study panels included three senior leaders at Flex sharing the story behind the company’s  at the factory level and representatives from compliance, risk, and audit at Mississippi State University sharing how the functions collaborate on addressing emerging risks (and handing out cowbells).

All about AI

It’s no surprise AI featured prominently throughout the event, especially a few weeks removed from Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco  to the DOJ’s Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs guidance that will spell out the expected responsibilities of compliance staff for managing AI-related risks.

While compliance officers reckon with the added expectations for overseeing company use of the volatile technology, keynote speaker Diana Kelley  to see compliance getting a more consequential seat at the table.

“When we opt for more compliance, it will benefit AI,” said Kelley, an AI expert who formerly served in senior technology roles at Microsoft and IBM.

A Day 1 workshop took an even deeper dive into the responsible development and implementation of AI, with compliance practitioners attending sharing their experiences experimenting with the technology.

Workshops prove a forum for engagement

At three hours, those Day 1 workshops can be daunting. But the time flies with the right speaker creating a safe space for those in the room to learn from each other as much as the presentation.

I had the pleasure of watching neuroscientists Dr. Sahar Yousef and Lucas Miller, back for a second year after stealing the show with their . The duo took that discussion a step further and once again captivated those in the room regarding the science behind productivity and performance.

Down the hall, Mary Shirley, head of compliance at Masimo, facilitated an engaging dialogue on “Living Your Best Compliance Life” that saw attendees open up with personal anecdotes of successes earned and hardships faced. Meanwhile, independent consultant Douglas Hileman raved to me about the experience level of the crowd at his sustainability reporting workshop that required him to kick the course up a notch from 101.

It’s a double-edged sword to hear someone tell you a Day 1 session was worth the price of admission alone—don’t sleep on Days 2 and 3!

20th anniversary hype begins

There was already a buzz brewing among attendees regarding our 2025 National Conference, which will mark the 20th year of our annual flagship event.

We aren’t ignorant to this milestone and are working to make it the best one yet. There’s nothing we’re more pleased with than the number of attendees who proudly tell us they’ve been attending our conference for year totals well beyond my 5 1/2 with the company. So, be sure to stay tuned for updates.

And for suggestions, the inbox of our Global Events Director Meredith Anastasio is always open. We hope to see you there!

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