Social media hot topic at SCCE conference

Oct 14, 2013
<p>Compliance officers and corporate governance professionals debated the role social media should play in supporting compliance goals.</p>

One of the hotly debated topics at this year’s annual Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) Conference was the role social media should play in supporting the compliance and ethics officer. It is now six months since the SEC officially deemed social media a suitable outlet for companies to disseminate material information to investors. But in this new post Dodd-Frank era, compliance officers and corporate governance professionals are still skeptical about the legal obligations and risks associated with using this relatively new medium. 

The event, which was held in Washington, DC, attracted more than 1300 compliance officers. Stephen Cohen, associate director, SEC Division of Enforcement kicked off the event with some strong thoughts on how compliance officers should view social media.

‘Recent studies show that compliance officers may not be focusing on emerging risk areas such as social media and privacy issues,’ said Cohen, who addressed a packed house. ‘Leading organizations ensure that they stay in front of these changes through a process of ongoing improvement that leverages new technology and best practices.’ 

Roy Snell, CEO of SCCE noted, 'Social media has the unique distinction of simultaneously being a very helpful business tool and significant risk area.'

Despite the mounting privacy challenges that social media poses, some compliance officers are now charged with stepping up their efforts to make social outlets such as Twitter and Facebook part of their overall compliance programs under Regulation Fair Disclosure. The delicate nature of such a challenge was discussed in the panel, ‘Go social: Using social media for compliance training success.’ Stefani Dawkins, manager, Enterprise Compliance, Business Engagement, Cisco Systems showed how companies could begin mitigating some of the risk associated with social media by implementing a strong training program.

‘Using social media for compliance training purposes is very important especially when your workforce is more than 50 percent virtual,’ said Dawkins during her panel. She provided case studies from Cisco Systems, which has over 1600 different communities and wikis on its social media sites to show what could be accomplished successfully. One promising approach to navigating the muddy waters of social media is making sure that the multilayer messaging across these social platforms are shareable and constantly monitored, according to Dawkins. 

‘We have teams dispersed around the world, which enables us to carefully monitor and screen posts 24 hours a day,’ said Dawkins. ‘It only makes sense for us to plug into social media because this is a place where everyone gathers to communicate, so instead of pulling our employees to where we were, we provided the discussion forums and other platforms for them to share their thoughts.’

She added that ‘compliance officers can also receive training at any time from our social sites.’ 

SCCE provided other social media sessions for attendees to engage in while at the annual conference. During ‘Social media in the workplace: Successful compliance infrastructures and effectively managing risk,’ Caroline McMichen, chief ethics and compliance officer, Molson Coors Brewing Company provided tips on developing a global social media structure that mitigates risk and boosts employee engagement. 

First, however McMichen listed the potential liabilities associated with social media:

•Corporate Reputation

•Regulatory Issues

•Code of Conduct and Policy Violations

•Lost Productivity

•Difficult to control

•Difficult to monitor

She then discussed several risk areas all companies should consider:

•Misuse of Intellectual Property

•Damaged Business Partner Relationships

•Limitation of Employee Rights

•Security Issues

McMichen then left her session’s attendees with her ‘Best practice tips for safe and responsible social media use 

1. Be Transparent – Don’t expect anonymity

2. Be Judicious – Not everything should be shared

3. Be Knowledgeable – Don’t post about what you don’t know

4. Be Conversational – Write in your own voice

5. Be Responsible – You are personally responsible for what you post


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