Risk Insider: Nir Kossovsky

New Tools to Bolster Reputation Risk Management

By: | July 5, 2016 • 3 min read
Nir Kossovsky is the Chief Executive Officer of Steel City Re. He has been developing solutions for measuring, managing, monetizing, and transferring risks to intangible assets since 1997. He is also a published author, and can be reached at [email protected]

The American Law Institute (ALI) is formalizing governance law principles that will include legal strategies to signal stakeholders and enhance institutional reputations for governance, risk management and compliance.

ALI’s principles, according to the Institute, hold an authority nearly comparable to that accorded to judicial decisions. No board, once advised, could safely ignore or deny these guidelines.

One example of these emerging standards involves monitorships. These are court-ordered corporate oversight mechanisms to enforce compliance after ethics or safety breaches or any other shortcoming that could impact a company’s reputation and by natural extension, reputation value.

The legal community’s recognition of the value of actions designed to send signals to stakeholders and impact reputation is a major sea change only 35 years in the making.

As reported in the blog JOTWELL, a review of legal scholarship sponsored by the University of Miami School of Law, monitorships are also now recognized as a legal means of signaling ongoing reputation rehabilitation.

The modern-day monitor, like a gatekeeper, may lend reputational capital to the wrongdoer, but in this context to facilitate rehabilitation or … (other) public relations benefit(s).

Advertisement




According to Notre Dame’s Veronica Root, Associate Professor of Law, examples of modern-day monitorships include the court-ordered events following Penn State’s sexual abuse scandal, Apple’s anti-competitive behavior, and Bank of America’s improper foreclosures on hundreds of thousands of homeowners.

They provide outsiders a unique source of information about the efficacy of the tarnished organization’s efforts to remediate misconduct.

Responding to a need for a set of recommended standards and best practices on the law of compliance and risk management (GRC), ALI’s recommendations are primarily addressed to legislatures, administrative agencies, and private actors such as the law firms that advise boards.

The legal community’s recognition of the value of actions designed to send signals to stakeholders and impact reputation is a major sea change only 35 years in the making.

It affirms that behavioral economic principles are becoming mainstream among leading lawyers working in the governance, risk and compliance area. It is a formal acknowledgement that governance battles in the courts of public opinion are as important as battles in the courts of law.

The prior legal mindset was solidified in 1947 in Judge Learned Hand’s formula where if the expected cost of harm exceeded the cost to take the precaution, then the company must take the precaution, whereas if the cost of harm was less, then it did not have to.

This standard, named “BPL,” was severely tested in 1981 with the legendary Ford Pinto case. Based on a BPL analysis, Ford legally chose not to make the Pinto safer.

The BPL defense led to Ford’s being lambasted for insensitivity to the risk-cost trade-offs associated with the risk of immolation from rear-impact crashes of the Pinto.

Yet, tied to the BPL formula, the mainstream legal community found it difficult to factor in the cost of lost reputation — the added costs of harm due to lost sales, weakened talent retention, damaged supplier relationships and other damage.

For years, the legal community railed at a legal system that allowed companies to be punished in situations in which they undertook “responsible risk analyses.”

The ALI’s forthcoming guidelines redefines “responsible risk analysis” to acknowledge the reality that in matters of governance, risk management and compliance that all depend on trust, to paraphrase former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, reputation has a significant economic value.