On 25 May 2021, the Dutch Consumer & Market Authority (“ACM”) published its behavioural study into the compliance programmes and compliance culture at four companies in regulated industries which are under supervision of the ACM.

In the study, the ACM not only examined whether everything was in order 'on paper', but also questioned employees and management about their compliance with laws and regulations. The survey not only shows that the ACM-related compliance culture at the companies investigated is mature, but it also shares some best practices findings of a good compliance culture, in which doubts and mistakes are openly discussed.

The ACM survey mentions some recommended practices that contribute to a healthy compliance culture:

  • Exemplary behaviour is essential - the 'tone at the top' determines the compliance culture. Directors and managers have a decisive role in propagating and supporting compliance and in doing so themselves.
  • Provide (compulsory) training adapted to the target group, repeat it regularly and keep the knowledge up to date.
  • Promote both internal enforcement and a culture of compliance in which mistakes can be made. Which support and reinforce each other.
  • Give the compliance team visibility and sufficient influence.
  • Deal with complaints and signals carefully and safely – share the results so that reporting can have a learning effect.
  • Take the psychological barriers seriously that employees may feel for reporting.

The main pitfall identified by the ACM study is the risk of possible rationalisation by employees to justify a (near) violations, which can pose a risk to compliance. A reporting system should allow as little room as possible for the creation and application of rationalisations and consider interventions to prevent or unnerve them.