Ethics and Compliance Officer Association Fosters Leadership and Community at Its 19th Annual Ethics & Compliance Conference


Hundreds of ethics and compliance officers from around the world gathered together in Bellevue, Washington, in a spirit of trust and collegiality for the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association’s (ECOA’s) 19th Annual Ethics & Compliance Conference from September 20 to 23. ECOA members and friends from governments, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and universities represented over 12 countries and 34 industries from finance to healthcare. They gathered to participate in educational workshops, expert-led seminars, networking activities, industry-specific meetings, and a business ethics competition for university students.


Cheryl Scarboro from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and former chief of the FCPA Unit in the U.S. SEC Division of Enforcement delivered an informative keynote presentation on the ten most important things the audience needed to know about the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Thursday, September 22, saw Paula Reynolds, CEO of Preferwest LLC, sharing her wisdom and experience gained from years as a business leader and director on boards of multiple Fortune 500 companies. Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times challenged attendees to look closely at the recent financial crisis and the ethical issues involved. The conference closed with a plenary session by ethicists Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel, co-authors of the book Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It. Bazerman and Tenbrunsel asked attendees to examine the gap between how ethical employees think they are and how ethical they truly are.


Eighty-nine industry-leading speakers led concurrent sessions on topics ranging from the implementation of the 2010 UK Bribery Act to public trust in business. Workshops included instruction for engaging your board of directors; managing a confidential helpline in an age of whistleblowing; using social media to achieve program objectives; conducting lawful and effective investigations; and much more.


Special highlights of the conference included a networking dinner cruise on Lake Union / Lake Washington and the Intercollegiate Business Ethics Case Competition (IBECC). The latter event involves a partnership among the ECOA, the Center for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University, and the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas. After two days of competition judged by ECOA members, students representing 15 universities from around the world gathered for a banquet and awards ceremony on Thursday evening alongside the conference attendees. The winning teams presented their business ethics cases to all present.


In the growing ethics and compliance field, which is dedicated to creating ethical organizational cultures and preventing employees from crossing ethical and regulatory lines into wrongdoing, discretion is key. The ECOA’s Annual Ethics & Compliance Conference allows openness and sharing while diligently protecting sensitive information and privacy. Ethics and compliance practitioners were free in Bellevue to disclose both their challenges and successes in a relatively closed environment, learning from long-time experts as well as bright new colleagues. Eighty-five percent of conference registrants were ethics and compliance practitioners, with the remaining fifteen percent comprised of academicians, guests, and exhibitors with a vested stake in the field. The IBECC students were also welcomed to attend sessions and networking events; the ECOA values its partnership with IBECC and the education of tomorrow’s leaders in business ethics.


The Annual Ethics & Compliance Conference is the ECOA’s largest educational event of the year, but there are several more events scheduled for 2011. The 2.5-day educational course “Introduction to Ethics and Compliance” will be held October 26–28 in Nashville, Tennessee; the Building and Benefiting from an Ethical Organizational Culture Conference will be held November 2–4 in St. Paul, Minnesota; and the inaugural offering of ECOA Business School, a seven-session distance-learning course, begins November 2.


As the ECOA approaches its 20th anniversary as the premier professional association for ethics and compliance practitioners worldwide, we continue to be the leading voice for our members and the field of business ethics.


Community, Professional Development, and Resources