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The Life of a CCO: One in a Series

State Law versus Federal: Who will protect the CCO?

We may not be the first to tell you, but it is important to note that the challenges presented to those holding the CCO title and their duty to supervise recently became more complicated following a decision of the New York Court of Appeals which upheld last month the right of a hedge fund manager to terminate a CCO (who was an at-will employee) for allegedly voicing objections over inappropriate securities trading by his employer (Sullivan v. Harnisch).

The CCO alleged that he was dismissed for doing his job and “speaking out” internally about a securities violation as he was supposed to do given his position. He argued that the manager should not be able to dismiss him under such circumstances. The New York Court of Appeals disagreed.  It found that discharging his obligations under the federal securities laws did not protect the CCO from dismissal under state laws and implied that if the federal legislature wished to protect employees from such at-will termination, it would have to enact new laws.  In the court’s view, an employee is protected from anti-retaliation only if the employee reports the wrong-doing to the SEC and does so under the Dodd-Frank whistleblower statute.  The court also noted that the firm had no express company anti-retaliation policy.

It is interesting that the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals dissented and said that “the message that will be taken from the majority’s decision is self-evident: if compliance officers (and other similarly situated) wish to keep their jobs, they should keep their hands down and ignore good-faith suspicions or evidence they may have that their employers have engaged in illegal and unethical behavior, even where such violations could cause or have caused staggering losses to their employers’ clients”. This decision puts CCOs in a difficult and conflicting situation. On one hand, they face enforcement actions and personal liability from the SEC for failure to supervise. On the other hand, they are not protected from retaliatory termination for doing their job correctly. This is not an optimal result and hopefully, Congress or the SEC will provide guidance. Until then, CCOs could do a few things:

  1. Encourage independent review and testing of the compliance program either internally by an independent audit department or a third-party provider as recently advised by two senior SEC officials, Carlo di Florio, the Director of the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) and Norm Champ, the Deputy Director of OCIE. See the rest of the recommendations by the SEC in our previous Communiqué “When should newly registered private fund managers expect to be examined by the SEC?”. Independent review procedures should be established before problems arise and when there is more internal consensus on their adoption. A second set of eyes and an independent report can help the CCO make a case that he or she supervised “reasonably” and may, in some instances facilitate communications with the firm’s management as well. 
  2. Encourage the adoption of anti-retaliation policies in their firms’ compliance programs and employee handbooks.
  3. Document in detail their efforts to inform management about possible violations and management’s reaction and efforts to correct and/or address violations even if the actions taken by the CCO, while reasonable, are not exhaustive and did not entail pursuing every possible course of action, such as whistleblowing. 
  4. Do extensive due diligence before accepting the CCO title. Is there tone at the top?  If you find yourself in a position where you are holding the CCO title, there is limited tone at the top and you are unable to implement change, seriously consider calling a headhunter.
 

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Communiques

SEC3 Newsletter

Commentary: How Compliance Officers & Firms Can Help Limit CCO Personal Liability This article originally appeared on the Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence subscription service for compliance and risk professionals and is... read more »

Wishing One-and-All a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year

We hope each of you found some peace and tranquility in the company of loved ones this holiday season and want to wish one-and-all a happy, healthy and prosperous New... read more »

Understanding How to Mitigate Liability and Navigate Insurance Options (Part II)

In June, we shared our thoughts around common insurance gaps and insurance riders that CCOs as well as managers should understand. One of the gaps we shared related to pre-claim... read more »

Cybersecurity - What have we learned and what have we done?

Regulatory Landscape In April 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC's") Division of Investment Management issued a guidance update, identifying cybersecurity as a critical issue. Several regulators are in fact focusing... read more »

Gatekeepers in SEC Crosshairs

Ever since the enforcement cases were announced as part of the SEC’s “Operation Broken Gate,” the SEC enforcement division has continued to ramp up scrutiny of gatekeepers including third-party service... read more »

Anna M. Bencrowsky, CRCP, CMFS Joins SEC3

We are pleased to announce that Anna M. Bencrowsky, CRCP, CMFS has joined SEC3 as a Senior Consultant. Prior to joining SEC3, Anna held several executive compliance positions. Anna recently retired... read more »

Events

May 23, 2017 - Webcast: WannaCry Ransomware: Were You Really Protected or Just L…

When: Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 | Schedule: 12pm - 1pm EST Who: Paul Caiazzo, CEO and Co-Founder, TruShield Security Solutions Michael Brice, Founder, BW Cyber Services John Lukan, Managing Director, SEC Compliance Consultants, Inc. We...

June 14, 2017 - Compliance Breakfast Briefing

8:30-9:00am - Networking and Continental Breakfast 9:00-10:30am - Program Location: Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP | 600 Travis Street | Suite 2310 | Houston, TX Barry Barbash from Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP,...

June 13, 2017 - Compliance Breakfast Briefing

8:30-9:00am - Networking and Continental Breakfast 9:00-10:30am - Program Location: Haynes and Boone, LLP | 2323 Victory Avenue | Suite 700 | Dallas, TX 75219 Validated parking is available in the garage attached...

May 31, 2017 - Chicago

9:00-9:30 a.m - Networking and Continental Breakfast 9:30-11:00 a.m - Program Location: Baker & McKenzie LLP | 300 East Randolph Drive | Suite 5000 | Chicago, IL 60601 Kristin Gonzalez and Jerome Tomas...

May 17, 2017 (NYC WIMF)

This event is by invitation only. Please email info@seccc.com to learn more.

May 15, 2017 (NYC Chief Compliance Officer Roundtable)

9:00-9:30am - Networking and Continental Breakfast 9:30-11:00am - Program Location: Blank Rome LLP | The Chrysler Building | 405 Lexington Avenue | New York, NY 10174 | 22nd Floor Boardroom | Phone:...

Webcast: The Most Insidious Cybersecurity Threat Is Also The Least Understood

When: Tuesday, April 25th | Schedule: 12pm - 1pm EST Who: Paul Caiazzo, CEO and Co-Founder, TruShield Security Solutions Michael Brice, Founder, BW Cyber Services John Lukan, Managing Director, SEC Compliance Consultants, Inc. Ransomware, the...

CCO Liability (Part III): Managing Liability Webinar

In this webinar, panelists discuss indemnifications and insurance as potential remedies to address the direct financial risks to a CCO. Attendees will learn: What terms and conditions should Chief Compliance Officers be...

Webinar: CCO Liability (Part III): Managing Liability: Navigating Indemnities an…

When: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 Schedule: 11:00am ET / 10:00am CT / 9:00am MT / 8:00am PT / 7:00am AT Description of Webinar: The National Society of Compliance Professionals is pleased to host...

Webcast: SEC 2017 Examination Focus Area – Cybersecurity Testing

Penetration Testing & Vulnerability Assessments - Examining the SEC & FINRA Requirements When: Wednesday, January 25th | Schedule: 12pm - 1pm EST Who: Paul Caiazzo, CEO and Co-Founder, TruShield Security Solutions Michael Brice, Founder,...

Chief Compliance Officer Roundtable: Breakfast Briefing

When: October 20, 2016 Where: Blank Rome LLP | The Chrysler Building | 405 Lexington Avenue | New York, NY 10174 | 22nd Floor Boardroom | Phone: 212.885.5000 Thomas Westle and Janaya...

Practicing Law Institute - Hedge Fund Management 2016

When: September 15, 2016 Where: New York & concurrent webcast | 1177 Avenue of the Americas | New York, NY 10036 Schedule: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Janaya Moscony, President of SEC3 will...

CHIEF COMPLIANCE OFFICER ROUNDTABLE: BREAKFAST BRIEFING

When: April 13, 2016 Where: Blank Rome LLP | The Chrysler Building | 405 Lexington Avenue | New York, NY 10174 22nd Floor Boardroom Thomas Westle and Janaya Moscony, along with industry experts,...

COMPLIANCE SCIENCE SUMMIT 2015

When: November 17, 2015 Where: Convene Midtown East | 730 Third Avenue | New York, NY 10017 Janaya Moscony, President, SEC Compliance Consultants, Inc. will be moderating a...

CHIEF COMPLIANCE OFFICER ROUNDTABLE: BREAKFAST BRIEFING

When: October 13, 2015 Where: Blank Rome LLP | The Chrysler Building | 405 Lexington Avenue | New York, NY 10174 22nd Floor Boardroom Thomas Westle and Janaya Moscony, along with...