As I mentioned last week, I had a chance to meet with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and learn about their compliance program and some aspects of other FBI programs.
Patrick W. Kelley gave a very thoughtful overview of the FBI’s compliance program. Like many compliance programs, it was born from a crisis. The FBI was accused of abusing the use of National Security Letters. An NSL is a demand letter, which differs from a subpoena. An internal FBI audit found that they violated the NSL rules more than 1000 times in an audit of 10% of its national investigations between 2002 and 2007.
Mr. Kelley was tasked with creating a compliance program to identify and prevent abuse. He looked around at other government agencies, but decided that the private sector was a better model for his program. As a result, the program sounds more like a corporate compliance program and not merely a government bureaucracy.
That means, there is a strong emphasis on management buy-in, the tone at the top and risk reduction methodology. To show the tone at the top, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III took time out of his day to speak with the group and talk about the importance of the compliance program.
The Office of Integrity and Compliance reports to the Deputy Director and has a council of senior leaders to help oversee and guide the program. The leaders come from across the Bureau giving a wide swath of exposure to the operational risks they confront.
As with any compliance program, training is a challenge. As global organization, the FBI has tens of thousands of employees spread out across hundreds of offices across the United States and the foreign jurisdictions. Training is at a premium because it can’t be an operational impediment. You would hate to think the FBI missed an opportunity to prevent a major incident from occurring because the agent was sitting in a compliance training program.
On the other hand, I felt the FBI took compliance and operational limitations under the law and the constitution very seriously.
In addition to the compliance side of the OIC, there is also a formal ethics program. These too involve similar themes as you would see in a corporate environment:
- Gifts (Personal Gifts, Gifts of Travel, Gifts to FBI)
- Use of Government Property/Time
- Conflicts of Interest
- Financial Disclosure
- Outside Employment
- Involvement in Non-Federal entities
- Political Activities
- Misuse of Position
- Endorsement and preferential treatment
- Fundraising in the Federal Workplace
The big issue confronting the OIC is the new disclosure requirements as a result of the STOCK Act. The law was revised to requires certain executive branch employees to make financial disclosures just as Congress is required. That means some FBI employees will need to start making financial disclosures or need to make expanded financial disclosures.