I am a Compliance and Regulatory Practice attorney and my practice helps business run efficiently and effectively by minimizing the disruptions caused by government oversight. Green and Spiegel works directly with clients to assess policies and procedures, explore alternative business arrangements, and implement tailored systems that minimize the costs associated with potential and realized government activities.
The reality of government oversight has been changing for some time and companies experience this as business disruptions and penalties. As a former administrative investigator and manager for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), I am in a unique position to offer insights into how more information, and better tools for manipulating that information, affects oversight. Stated plainly, the government collects an immense amount of information and the systems it uses become more integrated every day. This has collapsed the safe space for inaccurate information that has shielded all but the most egregious offenders from feeling the weight of government oversight.
When my government career started, physical files contained immense amounts of data that would never be digitized. That inaccessible data forced the government to first identify a potential problem and then search for data which would inform the inspection or investigation. Now, the immense amount of data and ready availability of tools to sift, isolate, and combine information lets the government add data driven inspections and investigations to its oversight tools.
This was the focus of our October 2019 piece, “GOVERNMENT EVOLVES TOO AND INCREASED ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS POINT TO DATA ACCESS, STRONGER ANALYSIS, AND INTER-AGENCY COOPERATION" and the bottom line is that the government is collecting and using data better than ever and the “safe space,” that area in which incorrect information would be missed or ignored, has collapsed. We should reasonably assume that everything submitted will be compared to what the government possesses and that discrepancies will be subject to some form of reconciliation, whether internal (adjudication) or external (inspections and investigations).
In this environment, a proactive corporate posture is the one which is most likely to avoid business disruptions and its attendant government penalties. There will continue to be more audits and inspections but we can minimize their impact by adapting policies and procedures which prevent inadvertent misrepresentations, validate and verify information presented to the government, and clearly define roles in responding to potential or realized government activity.
A new decade is upon us. The new year provides us with a moment to reflect on change and growth. Businesses intent on evolving to meet the new demands will be better positioned at the end of 2020 than those which continue to employ systems, policies, and procedures which no longer meet company needs. In this environment, attorney – client privilege, that indispensable tool for having frank conversations with a lawyer whose insights are independent of institutional norms, is a friend.