On the right side of the law

Miya Knights talks to two firms that are keeping on the straight and narrow while still speeding towards greater business advantage

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Customer information, financial reporting and audit, exports, waste – almost every part of an organisation’s inputs and outputs are increasingly driven by regulation.

Indeed, regulation is often seen as a cost centre, operational headache and financial burden in terms of the potential fines an organisation could be liable for if found to be non-compliant – not to mention the incalculable damage to brand reputation that can be incurred if public sanctions are applied.

But the necessary evil that compliance is often seen as can be turned into a positive, if looked at as an objective way to measure whether processes and policies are up to standard. It can also be a means to an end of putting the best practices in place for maximum competitive advantage.

“Our compliance efforts can be seen as a way to enable a seamless effort to implement regulation. That allows the company to put more effective controls in place in a way that increases the efficiency of our processes and doesn’t hold back the business,” says James Stearns, director of regulatory compliance and senior counsel at Intelsat.

And, if anyone should know about compliance and its legal implications, Stearns should. This is because Intelsat is the world’s biggest global satellite communications service provider, involved in areas of utmost importance to both international and industrial security, with reported revenue last year of $1.7 billion (£839 million).

In fact, in 2006 the US Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued over $16 million (£7.7 million) in fines to companies for violating export regulations, which essentially means they did business with the wrong people. And trading with an entity on the US restricted party list can result in administrative fines of up to $120,000 (£59,218) or criminal penalties, including 10 years imprisonment. Or, in Intelsat’s case and, as Stearns half jokingly told CIO: “We have to make sure we’re not selling satellite bandwidth to Osama Bin Laden”.

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