5 Podcasts That Mattered in 2020

By Thomas Fox ,The Compliance Evangelist, Author

I want to look at five podcasts which were the significant for the compliance professional in 2020. One had insights about the long-term impact of the pandemic, two point to where compliance and compliance practitioners are headed from other industry changes, one was gut-wrenching and one was uber-fun for a Trekkie. In no particular order here are Five That Mattered.  


1-Compliance and Coronavirus – Jed Gardner from Linedata on Business as Usual

One of the new podcasts I began in 2020 was Compliance and Coronavirus. When I began the podcast, there was lots of inane and mis-information coming out about Coronavirus and COVID-19, largely from the Trump Administration. Unfortunately, that never changed during the 350,000 American deaths from COVID-19. I decided to ‘run toward the fire’ to see if I could help by providing the business executive clear and sane information about how to deal with the pandemic at all points during 2020. The issues we had in March were different than in Q3 and even now.

Some of the lessons will stay with us for many years. Dan Goodwin said that we have had 3-5 years of changes in 2020. I agree. Yet perhaps the most insightful comment came from Jed Gardner, Senior Vice President at Linedata Technology. Jed’s insight was that we have moved from disaster recovery to business continuity to business as usual during the time of Coronavirus. He explained that risk managers, compliance professionals and business executives now have to plan for the unknown unknowns in their business plans and risk management strategies. Obviously, this is something which is quite difficult to do so it requires nimbleness and agility in your overall enterprise risk management process. COSO said the same thing when it released its Compliance Risk Management: Applying the COSO ERM Framework this fall.


2-Compliance into the Weeds – Leadership Failures at Ft. Hood, with Special Guest Diane St. Ives

Matt Kelly and I hit 200 podcasts this year and that is reason enough to celebrate this podcast series. In addition to being the coolest guy in compliance, he is one of the sharpest observers of the compliance scene and has been for most of this century. He is also a journalist so his take on things is from that discipline whereas I look at things from the legal/compliance perspective. Every week we go ‘Into the Weeds’ on a compliance topic and oft-times we go full geek on the week’s subject.

This podcast was quite different. Matt had written about the US Army’s investigation into the leadership failures at Ft. Hood surrounding the murder of PFC. Vanessa Guillén, who disappeared on April 22. She was murdered by a fellow soldier, who killed himself in June when he escaped Army investigators taking him into custody. For this podcast, we were joined by Houston attorney Diane St. Ives, who is an old friend who is also a US Army vet. Diane was initially stationed at Ft. Hood in 1979 and was sexually harassed, reported it and was retaliated against for her efforts. Her story was literally gut-wrenching to listen to as for her it did not happen 40+ years ago, it happened yesterday. Most unfortunately it appears that nothing has changed in the US Army from her incident in 1979 to the death of PFC. Guillén in 2020. 


3- The Compliance Life – Russ Berland on the CCOs Role in Crisis Management

Another new podcast offering from the Compliance Podcast Network in 2020. In this series I visit with one Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) a month on their journey to and sitting in the CCO chair, what lessons they learned and where they personally or the compliance discipline is headed. What has fascinated me is the seemingly random way many of us got into the compliance field. DeAnna Nwankwo was a QA/QC specialist at NASA, took a similar job at Core Laboratories and was soon called into the General Counsel’s office and told “Congratulations, you are our new CCO.” Another great story was Ryan Rabalais who went for what he thought was a legal clerk position at an energy services company while he was in law school. It turned out the position was to perform due diligence for the company’s work in Mexico in connection with a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation. They asked him if he spoke Spanish, he responded with the two full sentences of Spanish he could muster and was hired on the spot. Welcome to compliance.

However, it was the podcast with Russ Berland on the CCO’s role in crisis management that I found the most significant. As the CCO at Aventiv Technologies, Berland manages the company’s enterprise risk management system, part of which is their risk register. A pandemic was one of the events on that register. As soon as the CDC announced that COVID-19 could become an issue for businesses, the Aventiv team created a formal risk management plan that included a list of all the people who are going to be part of the response team, all the actions they would take and what the elements that would trigger the plan. That was written, circulated, approved and was ready to go several days before we needed it. It was this example from Berland that demonstrates a risk and compliance function “can look and see what’s coming, can prepare a way of dealing with it and then start the process.”


4- Trekking Through Compliance – The Picard Files

As anyone who has listened to almost any of my podcasts or reads any of my blogs knows, I am an uberStar Trek fan, having fallen under the spell of Star Trek as a kid in the ‘60s. In the summer of 2019, I premiered Trekking Through Compliance where I reviewed every episode of the Original Series (TOS) on a daily basis. 79 episodes of the intersection of Star Trek and compliance over 79 straight days. It was hugely popular and so much so that I re-ran the entire series in the summer of 2020 and the numbers of hits and downloads were even higher this year.

Earlier this year, CBS released a 10-episode series Picard which followed the adventures of TNG Captain Jean-Luc Picard as he searched for the home world of Data’s grand-daughter. It was a great series, with most of the old crew featured and tons of cookies for every Trekkie. For this series, I was joined by Megan Dougherty, co-founder of One Stone Creative and part of my podcast production team. Megan is quite a bit younger than me but is also an uber Star Trek fan. However, the Star Trek Megan grew up with was Voyager and as a result has a very different take on all things Star Trek. Together we did a podcast on the full series over its 10-week. It was a ton of fun. 


5- Innovation in Compliance – Trysha Daskem on how ESG Helps Companies See in the Dark

In this series I bring some of the country’s top minds into a podcast about innovation. Most of my guests are outside the traditional field of anti-corruption compliance and that is by design as I want these guests to bring new ideas to compliance professionals. I tell my guests that I want “your people to talk to my people” to see what they can come up with to implement.

Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) is often deemed a risk tool because it evaluates a set of environmental, social and governance risk factors that were not typically captured in traditional due diligence. ESG is increasingly becoming a matter of corporate citizenship. It is a way for a company to establish how it is acting responsibly towards its clients, employees, vendors and community at large. In addition, stakeholders want to see that the ESG policies on paper are actually being implemented, that protective mechanisms were put in place to guard against considered risks.

This is where a CCO comes in. Think about Tenneco Inc. CCO Kim Yapchai who is now also head of Sustainability for the company. ESG can put a company and CCO in a place where they are less surprised by things that happen, Daskem said, “it’s another tool to help them see in the dark.” It is also a framework to be able to not only analyze questions and manage risks, but also to give answers to multiple stakeholders.

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