Chief Compliance Officer, Wells Fargo
Among the biggest challenges facing bank compliance officers is making sure all employees are playing by the rules. At a large organization like Wells Fargo, which employs more than 230,000 people in thousands of offices in the U.S. and abroad, it is virtually impossible to know if staffers are properly filing suspicious activity reports or following know-your-customer guidelines.
Yet chief compliance officers, like Wells Fargo's Yvette Hollingsworth Clark, remain deeply worried that, in the current regulatory climate, they could be held liable for the misconduct of others. So last year Hollingsworth Clark spearheaded an industrywide initiative to develop a so-called "Compliance Officer Bill of Rights."
The primary aim, said Hollingsworth Clark, is to educate regulators about the role of compliance officers and to help them understand what should be reasonably expected of them. While the document, authored by prominent banking attorney Jerry Buckley, is still a work in progress, it lays out some very specific protections for compliance officers, such as exemption from claims of personal responsibility unless there is evidence of negligent conduct. It also asks that companies pay compliance officer's legal fees in defending against allegations of misconduct.
Hollingsworth Clark said that if she were going to make one change to banking regulation it would be to "remove the punitive enforcement culture" that took hold following the financial crisis. She suggested that regulators require banks submit formal plans of their operating practices and assess penalties only if they veer from the plan and cause harm to customers.
"The penalties that are being paid by financial institutions take away from the investment that the industry needs to improve its foundational operating practices," she said.