Kusserow on Compliance: Compliance investigation witness interview questions

20 key questions to be answered

The biggest challenge to conducting successful compliance investigations is knowing how to conduct successful witness interviews. Many find a list of predetermined questions to ask witnesses in a compliance investigation useful. However, care needs to be taken that this approach limits the information the investigator will get from the interview. This is because it constrains the conversation within a rigid framework. Begin with simple questions about an individual’s position, how long they have worked for the organization, identify their supervisor, etc. This will allow the individual to relax a little bit before going into substantive questioning. Keeping the interview as a fluid conversation will likely result in more productive results. It is always preferable to use open-ended questions to let a witness tell their story in their own way, such as “Tell in your own words about….” The following 20 questions can be used as a guide to frame your interviews and can be used as a reminder at the end of the interview to ensure all the key points have been addressed:

  1. What happened?
  2. Where did it happen?
  3. When did it happen?
  4. Who did it?
  5. Has it happened before?
  6. How often?
  7. Who else was present?
  8. Do you know of others who may have been affected by the incident or behavior?
  9. Who else may have seen or heard the incident or behavior?
  10. How did you react?
  11. How did any others present react?
  12. Did you ever indicate that you were upset or offended by the incident or behavior?
  13. Have you discussed the incident or behavior with anyone?
  14. Has anyone else reported this?
  15. How has the incident or behavior affected you?
  16. How has the incident or behavior affected your job?
  17. Have you sought medical treatment or counseling because of the incident?
  18. Do you have any evidence or documentation about the incident or behavior?
  19. Is there anyone else who may have relevant information?
  20. Is there any other relevant information that I haven’t asked you about?

For more information on conducting compliance investigation interviews or securing investigator training, contact Richard Kusserow at  Rkusserow@strategicm.com .

 

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on LinkedIn.

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Copyright © 2020 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: DOJ issues 2020 compliance program guidelines

Provides a more in-depth analysis of compliance programs

The DOJ released the updated Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs to assist prosecutors in making an informed analysis about an organization’s compliance program at the time of charging decisions. It has not changed much from the prior releases that included a list of 119 compliance-related questions. The new guidance continues to focus on three core questions derived from the Justice Manual, namely,  whether a compliance program is “well designed,” “being applied earnestly and in good faith,” and “works in practice.” It restates the importance of having a compliance program suitable for the company’s risk profile but added context and detail for companies to ensure that their compliance priorities are aligned with the DOJ’s expectations.

These include: (1) the importance of having an evolving, dynamic program; (2) the need for the compliance function to engage with company employees; (3) ensuring the program is thoughtful and responsive to the company’s context; and (4) the importance of adequate compliance resources and empowerment of the compliance function. Additional attention is given to these principles for companies to enhance their compliance program and adhere to best practices that would best position themselves in the event of an inquiry or enforcement action from a government regulator. It reflects the continued expectation that a compliance program should continue to evolve and improve over time as the business changes and the compliance function matures. Meaningful risk assessments and program evaluations are critical to this end. There is added language asking prosecutors to assess “why and how the company’s compliance program has evolved over time” and “has the periodic review led to updates in policies, procedures, and controls?”

The DOJ has continued to move away from the antiquated model of a generic, “off-the-shelf” compliance program and focus more on how an organization acts in response to risk assessments. Other questions include whether the company has a process for tracking and incorporating into its periodic risk assessment lessons learned either from the company’s own prior identified issues or from those of other companies operating in the same industry and/or geographical region. The DOJ asks about effective monitoring of compliance and whether a company’s compliance program has continuous access to operational data and information across functions. The DOJ underscores, once again, the importance of having regular reviews of the compliance program; and make it clear that this should not be “cookie cutter” “check the box” type reviews. These reviews should lead to useful findings that result in meaningful changes and improvements. Greater emphasis is also given to the adequacy of compliance resources, quality of trained staff, and empowerment for the program. The importance of oversight of any third-party agents that act on a company’s behalf is stressed, including whether the company engages in risk management of third parties throughout the lifespan of the relationship. The questions include whether the company completed pre-ad post-acquisition due diligence; and a process for timely and orderly integration of the acquired entity into existing compliance program structures and internal controls.

The guidance asks whether the company tracks access to various policies and procedures to understand what policies are attracting more attention from relevant employees; and if the policies have been published in a searchable format for easy access and reference. Employee training received new attention, suggesting companies consider the format of their trainings to be more responsive, including by: (1) investing in shorter, more targeted training sessions, and (2) ensuring a process by which employees can ask questions arising out of the training. In addition, there is the question as to the extent to which the training has an impact on employee behavior or operations. With regards to the hotlines, the guidance had added language to ensure that the hotline is an accessible, responsive tool, whether the company test whether employees are aware of the hotline and feel comfortable using it, and if reports are tracked from inception to finish.

 

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on LinkedIn.

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Copyright © 2020 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: Tips for an effective compliance exit interview program

– Useful only if done correctly

Carrie Kusserow has developed and evaluated many compliance-related exit interview programs and has found that one that is properly designed and constructed may give early warning of a potential liability and permit corrective action to prevent escalation of the problem. There is the added benefit that the program may deter departing employees from becoming “whistleblowers” after they have secured new employment and are free of the fear of retribution or retaliation. By affording these employees an opportunity to provide information prior to departure permits the individual a legitimate path for redress of grievance and reduces the likelihood they will turn outside the company to “blow their whistle.”

She found the most cost effective, efficient, and useful programs are those that separate the last day HR exiting process of filling out forms, turning in company property, providing COBRA and other needed information. On the last day, departing employees are often preoccupied with the process of leaving and what is required and may be reluctant to reveal the full and true reasons for leaving. Exit interview should be conducted as far in advance of the last day as possible. They should be a live exchange and not just “fill out the form” process and those conducting the interviews should be properly trained and with the skills to obtain useful information.

If done properly, exit interviews allow departing employees to describe experiences and identify issues for management that could otherwise remain unknown. Most such interviews will likely only take 15 to 30 minutes. The biggest challenge is defining those that the compliance officer should debrief. There is only a limited number that can be done. Generally, the individuals are limited to members of management and those identified as potentially having a grievance against the organization.  She offered the following tips for those considering establishing or enhancing their exit interview program.

 

  1. Create a policy document as to what level of management should be debriefed by the compliance officer. It is important to carefully define covered persons to avoid individuals resisting being interviewed. It should be considered just another formality in the exiting process. It then can be presented as yet another formality that must be followed before exiting the organization.

 

  1. Interviews should be scheduled as soon as possible after the decision to the leave the organization has been made. This permits the organization to take remedial action to any problems raised during the interview before the person leaves.

 

  1. Conduct the interview away from the person’s office to avoid distractions or interruptions in a place where the conversation can be overheard.

 

  1. Use open-ended questions, where the departing employee supplies the answer, are much more effective than having answers given from a predetermined list. Departing employees are typically reluctant to say or do anything that might prejudice their opportunities for future employment. The reliability and usefulness of the results is strongly affected by the skill of the interviewer and whether the employee trusts the interviewer.

 

  1. Include questions about the departing employee’s experience, especially where it involves compliance matters, discrimination, and harassment, etc. The debriefing should include very pointed questions about their work place experience with regards to compliance.

 

  1. Questions should include whether they observed any violations of laws, regulations, Code of Conduct, policies, etc. If so, the compliance office should be alerted.

 

  1. Any management, regulatory, or legal issue raised should be addressed, if possible, before the employee leaves the control of the organization. Taking corrective action while the person is still an employee may forestall that person from taking the same issues with an attorney, government agency, media, etc.

 

For more information or assistance in establishing Compliance Program Exit Interview Programs, contact ckusserow@strategicm.com.

 

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on LinkedIn.

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Copyright © 2020 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: Debriefing complainants—24 question tips

It is very important to fully debrief any complainants and act in a very timely manner to avoid having them go elsewhere with their information—such as an attorney, government agency, media, etc. Any of these other channels could result in serious problems and possible liability. In many cases the information may come anonymously from the hotline, underscoring the importance that those answering the calls be trained on properly debriefing callers and be familiar with health care related issues.

Also, time is not a friend once information is received that may warrant immediate action. Complicating matters is that frequently a single complaint may include several different allegations, each of which needs to be addressed independently. In the debriefing process, once the story is told, specific clarifying questions need to be asked in guiding the person back through the information. This should be done by asking the standard WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY questions. These should be designed to expand on the factual details and to test and corroborate the information and be sure the chronologies of events are established.

It is important also to look for avenues and leads that will provide direction by which to either substantiate the allegations or dismiss them. Inasmuch as the allegations may relate to a specific event, something personal or organization wide, an ongoing process problem, etc. It is impossible to draft a set of question that would apply in every circumstance, however the following gives an idea about the types of questions that can be asked in a formal debriefing.

 

DEBRIEFING QUESTIONS

 

  1. What happened that led to the making of the complaint?
  2. Why are you coming forth with it now?
  3. What occurred, where, when, and how?
  4. Did the person who engaged in the conduct engage in similar conduct with anyone else?
  5. Has anyone else complained to you about similar conduct?
  6. When did it occur (date and time)?
  7. Where did it take place?
  8. How did you respond when it occurred?
  9. Who did you discuss it with and when? 
  10. What did you say? What did they say?
  11. How has this incident affected you?
  12. Has your job been affected in any way?
  13. Who else was present when the act occurred? 
  14. Where were they in relation to you? 
  15. Who else has any knowledge of the act? 
  16. Has anyone else discussed it with you? 
  17. If so, who and what did that person say? 
  18. Did anyone see you immediately after the act?
  19. Who else was involved, knows about, or witnessed it?
  20. Who else have you told (employees, supervisor, attorney, media,)?
  21. Why do you think it happened?
  22. What documentary evidence would help in the investigation?
  23. What do you believe should be done to resolve this matter?
  24. Has is happened before (an isolated event or part of a pattern)?

 

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

Copyright © 2019 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.