The unprecedented challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting government lockdowns could strain even the most robust compliance programs. Companies have been appropriately focused on business preservation during this time, which has led to appreciable changes in how many companies operate, whether temporarily or permanently, and has forced many companies to reprioritize their use of resources and personnel. These changes may create potential compliance gaps in existing controls and procedures, and could present new compliance risks, requiring adjustments to existing procedures and controls or the development of new processes altogether.
As 2020 comes to an end, now is an opportune time for companies to reevaluate their international compliance risk profiles and compliance programs. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities Exchange Commission have emphasized the need to conduct regular compliance risk assessments, particularly after events with the potential to significantly impact the business, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. With year-end approaching, and SOX and financial audits on the horizon, companies should assess now how their compliance risk profile has changed as a result of the pandemic and associated lockdowns. This assessment should consider how current processes and controls have responded to newly created challenges and evaluate whether the existing compliance framework remains reasonably designed to detect and prevent violations of the law. Companies should use these findings to improve existing policies, procedures, and controls or, if necessary, devise new ones.
Foley can help. Our experienced team of lawyers practicing in international government enforcement defense, investigations, and compliance are available to perform a COVID-19 “re-opening” risk assessment or, alternatively, guide companies through the process of conducting one themselves.