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Don't become a victim of your corporate compliance program

For many executives, corporate compliance programs can be a double-edged sword. Take, for example, the recent resignation of Gary D. Henley, president and CEO of orthopedic device maker Wright Medical Group Inc.

Henley tendered his resignation as president and chief executive just prior to the board of directors reviewing an ongoing corporate compliance program at the company. Wright Medical said the board accepted Henley’s resignation but deemed it to be without “good reason,” and thus Henley isn’t entitled to severance pay. The board also fired another executive for issues related to the company’s corporate compliance program.

The Arlington, Tenn., company didn’t describe the specific compliance issues being reviewed. However, as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. government over allegations that Wright Medical improperly paid doctors to use its devices, the company agreed to meet certain compliance obligations. This included subjecting its physician consulting arrangements to review by a federally appointed monitor.

In addition to the CEO resignation, the board fired Frank S. Bono, senior vice president and chief technology officer (CTO), for “failing to exhibit appropriate regard for the company’s ongoing compliance program.”

The Wright Medical story — and others like it — highlights how severe an impact compliance problems can have on an organization. That should prompt CTOs and other executives to consider the impact of compliance problems and if their jobs are indeed on the line.

The key here is not to minimize the importance of corporate compliance programs or think that others may take the fall if a compliance initiative fails. Use the example above to plan for the worst and to make sure the appropriate budget and resources are in place to prevent compliance problems from taking your job.

Frank Ohlhorst is an award-winning technology journalist, professional speaker and IT business consultant with more than 25 years of experience in the technology arena. He has written for several leading technology publications, including Computerworld, TechTarget, PCWorld, ExtremeTech and Tom’s Hardware, and business publications including Entrepreneur and BNET. Ohlhorst was also executive technology editor at eWEEK and director of CRN Test Center.

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