The essence of our value to our customers is trust. Trust that clients’ directions will be followed, trust that their assets will be safeguarded, trust that we are independent, reliable facilitators of real estate transactions. Without the existence of such trust, our mission fails, our customers disappear, and we become irrelevant. The preservation of such trust, therefore, is critical to the survival of any title insurer.
Unfortunately, despite our obligation to honor the trust that is reposed in us, violations of that trust do occur and often are highlighted by governmental investigations, which may lead to serious consequences at both the criminal and civil level. We must be determined to keep corporate misconduct from occurring and to guard against unethical sales and marketing practices, employee defalcations, and fraud in the performance of real estate closing services. Our failure to be vigilant may lead to the loss of the trust - the ultimate penalty for a title company. One way to safeguard such trust is through an effective compliance program.
An effective, structured, compliance program promotes a law-abiding corporate environment and deters criminal conduct. It sends a message to employees at all levels that ethical behavior is expected, and wrongdoing is not tolerated. It recognizes that after-the-fact policing of business misconduct may not be adequate.
To implement such a program the following steps should be taken:
- The organization should establish clearly articulated standards and procedures that are easily understood and geared toward reducing the prospect of wrongful conduct;
- The organization must take steps to communicate these standards and proce- dures to as many employees as feasible through written materials, seminars, and company publications;
- Overall responsibility to oversee the program must be assigned to a high level employee;
- The organization must take reasonable steps to achieve compliance with its standards by utilizing monitoring and auditing systems, and by implementing means of reporting questionable conduct without fear of retribution;
- The standards must be enforced through appropriate disciplinary mechanisms; and
- After an offense has been detected, the organization must take reasonable steps to respond appropriately to the offense and supplement its procedures with the goal of preventing similar occurrences.
Implementation of a compliance program can have many positive effects. Many of them are found in the legal arena. An effective program can diminish the chances of criminal prosecutions and civil fines, for example. The most important benefits, however, will be felt within the company, as employees will be positively motivated to stress corporate integrity, and as our customers will know that trust is not a buzzword but a mission critical statement with which our industry is identified.
Patrick F. Stone