Column: Risk Management

The Risk of Lawlessness

By: | April 7, 2017 • 2 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

Laws at their core are intended to protect us, enforce our rights and help resolve disputes.

Laws are usually never invented overnight. Enduring laws can take centuries of precedent, research, philosophy and trials. Laws deter people from behaving in ways that can cause harm.

But every day I read about cuts in U.S. regulatory agency staffing, research, inspections and enforcement, coupled with a mandate to shed two rules for every one that is established. I hear unnerving calls for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Why is this happening? Have laws unfairly oppressed or stifled us? Has innovation been stunted?

More curiously, what do we think will happen if we relax the rules around our rights, air, water, food, drugs, buildings, roads and the marketplace?

My own experience has given me insight, and fortunately solace as well, on the effect of government ceasing the regulation of business. Ironically, this deregulation was the impetus for me entering the risk management world.

Without rules, organizations that don’t self-regulate will eventually fail.

I worked in the oil and gas pipeline industry for 15 years as a chief engineer. Charged with hundreds of construction and refurbishments projects, there wasn’t an area of the industry, regulations and code books with which I was not familiar.


In the mid 1990s, codes started to change. This was around the time pipelines were spontaneously erupting from stress-corrosion cracking.

One thought regulators would tighten the construction rules but instead they went the other way. They wanted to shed the liability for the construction codes in the event anything went wrong.

The codes moved from being “prescriptive” to “performance” based. They now said the company could bury the pipeline as deep as they liked as long as it could be justified with a “risk assessment” — the first time I came face-to-face with the term.

With all the newfound freedom, no rules to follow and no one to say “gotcha,” we could have designed the pipeline to any inexpensive depth, and coupled it with “risk assessment” to support the decision.

Shareholders would be ecstatic, right? It would have been so easy to build to a third of the depth. But, we didn’t. Why?

We knew, call it a tacit assumption, that if we ever did cause harm, it would not be good for business. Running a safe and reliable pipeline supported our reputation.

This precious reputation was our latchkey to the backyards where we intended to run pipe, to farms whose irrigation systems we needed to disrupt and to aboriginal lands where we needed to house our equipment.

Without rules, organizations that don’t self-regulate will eventually fail. To those organizations that plan to “benefit” from the deconstruction of the administration, clearly you are also planning to fail. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Janet Sheiner, VP of risk management and real estate at AMN Healthcare Services Inc., sees innovation as an answer to fast-evolving and emerging risks.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

As a kid, bagging groceries. My first job out of school, part-time temp secretary.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Risk management picks you; you don’t necessarily pick it. I came into it from a regulatory compliance angle. There’s a natural evolution because a lot of your compliance activities also have the effect of managing your risk.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


There’s much benefit to grounding strategic planning in an ERM framework. That’s a great innovation in the industry, to have more emphasis on ERM. I also think that risk management thought leaders are casting themselves more as enablers of business, not deterrents, a move in the right direction.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Justified or not, risk management functions are often viewed as the “Department of No.” We’ve worked hard to cultivate a reputation as the “Department of Maybe,” so partners across the organization see us as business enablers. That reputation has meant entertaining some pretty crazy ideas, but our willingness to try and find a way to “yes” tempered with good risk management has made all the difference.

Janet Sheiner, VP, Risk Management & Real Estate, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

San Diego, of course!  America’s Finest City has the infrastructure, Convention Center, hotels, airport and public transportation — plus you can’t beat our great weather! The restaurant scene is great, not to mention those beautiful coastal views.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

The emergence of risk management as a distinct profession, with four-year degree programs and specific academic curriculum. Now I have people on my team who say their goal is to be a risk manager. I said before that risk management picks you, but we’re getting to a point where people pick it.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?


The commercial insurance market’s ability to innovate to meet customer demand. Businesses need to innovate to stay relevant, and the commercial market needs to innovate with us.  Carriers have to be willing to take on more risk and potentially take a loss to meet the unique and evolving risks companies are facing.

R&I: Of which insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion?

Beazley. They have been an outstanding partner to AMN. They are responsive, flexible and reasonable.  They have evolved with us. They have an appreciation for risk management practices we’ve organically woven into our business, and by extension, this makes them more comfortable with taking on new risks with us.

R&I: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. health care industry and why?

I am very optimistic about the health care industry. We have an aging population with burgeoning health care needs, coupled with a decreasing supply of health care providers — that means we have to get smarter about how we manage health care. There’s a lot of opportunity for thought leaders to fill that gap.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Professionally, AMN Healthcare General Counsel, Denise Jackson, has enabled me to do the best work I’ve ever done, and better than I thought I could do.  Personally, my husband Andrew, a second-grade teacher, who has a way of putting things into a human perspective.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

In my early 20s, I set a goal for the “corner office.” I achieved that when I became vice president.  I received a ‘Values in Practice’ award for trust at AMN. The nomination came from team members I work with every day, and I was incredibly humbled and honored.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

The noir genre, so anything by Raymond Chandler in books. For movies,  “Double Indemnity,” the 1944 Billy Wilder classic, with insurance at the heart of it!

R&I: What is your favorite drink?


Clean water. Check out for how to help people enjoy clean, safe water.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant at which you’ve eaten?

Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

China. See favorite restaurant above. This restaurant had been open for 100 years in that location. It didn’t exactly have an “A” rating, and it was probably not a place most risk managers would go to.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Eating that duck at Liqun!

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

Dr. Seuss who, in response to a 1954 report in Life magazine, worked to reduce illiteracy among school children by making children’s books more interesting. His work continues to educate and entertain children worldwide.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

They’re not really sure!

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]