By André H. Paris, Brazil

Professor, Compliance Consultant and Lawyer. Partner – Oliveira Cardoso, Carvalho de Brito, Libardi Comarela, Zavarize & Antunes Coelho law firm,


Continuing our series, we bring further examples on how companies may enhance its impact on corporate culture in the search of getting its compliance program “out of the paper”.



Prohibitions and Sanctions

Maybe one of the oldest ways of driving behavior is through forbidding and sanctioning undesirable conducts. The history of punishment practices is not one that we, as humanity, are proud off – just remember that not long-ago torture was[1]  a legal method of sanctioning misbehavior.

In any case, prohibitions and sanctions are a method commonly used by companies to influence its employees behavior, and it can be a relevant contribution in forging a company’s culture by clearly defining and communicating what conducts will not be tolerated by the organization.

Corrective measures designed and applied by companies may vary and some examples are verbal or written warnings, employee suspension or dismissal, employee further training on compliance practices, temporary prohibition to participate in promotions process, etc.

Independently of the corrective measures selected a company must be aware of two important factors:

  1. The corrective measures must be proportional to the level of disapproval of the unethical behavior identified; and
  2. A company must not refrain from applying the prescribed corrective measure (regardless of the hierarchy level which the implicated employee occupies), under penalty of losing all its compliance program trustworthiness.


Communicating Ethical Behaviors

As Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein[2] point out, one of the reflects of our “irrationality” is the fact that we, as humans (unless you are an “econo[3]”), are susceptive to social influence (the effect that other people behaviors have on our owns).

In 1955, the psychologist Solomon Eliot Asch conducted an experiment[4] with one hundred and twenty-three participants. In his experiment the participants were divided in groups of five to seven individuals.

After grouped, the participants received a very simple task: they just had to look at line drawn in a card and then answer a series of twelve questions, all of them asking them to look at three lines an indicate which of them had the same length as first one they saw.

What the participants did not know was that in each of the groups only one individual would be trying to get all answers correctly, the other ones were instructed to purposely give the wrong answer after the third question (even if the answer would be clearly not the correct one).

What do you think were the outcomes of the experiment? If the answers given were obviously wrong it would not matter how many individuals gave them and the participant would give the correct answer, despite of the choices made by the other members of his group, right?

The results revealed that almost 75% of the participants followed his group answers at list one time and even if the response given was evidently incorrect.

Because we are influenced by our neighbors, colleagues and other peers behavior, a company would found very useful, when trying to introduce ethical and transparency aspects to its culture, to share ethical conducts performed by one of its members with his or her colleagues and other stakeholders of the organization (such as business partners or third parties who act on the behalf of the company).

For communications to be effective (and a constant reminder of a company’s culture and of the behaviors that are considered adequate ones), its frequency should be (desirably) at least once a week. Of course, due to the size of the organization this could imply an impossible task.

Even bigger companies could find this periodicity difficult to achieve (maybe not because it would not have so many examples of ethical behaviors, but rather because it is not easy for an organization to keep track with all its employee ethical conducts).

Knowing this, and to help companies to deal with the issue described above,

The compliance and the communication function could share with the company’s employees historical examples of ethical behaviors, good examples from others organizations, cases where an unethical path was chosen (and its adverse consequences for the ones who took it), etc.

All the examples shared here can help a company prevent wrongdoings by incentivizing its employees to abstain engaging in misbehavior through enhancing the likelihood of being caught if they do so.

All the examples shared here can help a company prevent wrongdoings by incentivizing its employees to abstain engaging in misbehavior through enhancing the likelihood of being caught if they do so.


In “Part III” of our series we will share further examples on how companies may enhance its impact on corporate culture.




[1] Where Does Torture Happen around the world?. Freedom from Torture. Available on: Accessed 29 may 2020.

[2] THALER, Richard H.; SUNSTEIN, Cass R. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Rev. and expanded ed. New York: Penguin Books, 2009.

[3] Thaler and Sunstein state that “econos” would basically be (if they exist) individuals that can always use their reflexive system while making decisions and, consequently, they would be always able to avoid bias or influenced decisions and capable of selecting the best alternative provided.

[4] ASCH, Solomon Elliot. Opinions and Social Pressure. Scientific American: vol. 193, 1995, p. 31-35.