September 29, 2010
I encourage the SEC to base the program on the existing Standards of Practice and the Code of Ethics of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA).
I suggest that the program offer service to the public as required, but also serve the workforce at the SEC
I ask the SEC to consider requiring to-code organizational ombudsmen in all regulated firms of more than 500 people as a mechanism to enhance ethical behavior and effective cultures.
The organizational ombudsman (ombuds) provides the means to rapidly institutionalize needed oversight and improvement into the financial services community in an at-least revenue neutral manner and thus protect the significant investments of the American taxpayer.
By requiring the regulated community to universally deploy ombuds programs, the SEC would create an unobtrusive but impactful layer of oversight. This structure provides the most effective means of assuring the discovery and self-correction of unethical and non-compliant behavior (including fraud, malfeasance, and abuse of power) while providing an additional backstop for public awareness and regulatory action, as appropriate.
Designed on principles of confidentiality, neutrality, independence, and informality, ombuds programs create value by assisting organizational members of all levels, to raise, analyze, resolve, and escalate (or not) issues in the most appropriate manner for the individual and the institution.
Ombuds in many industries have demonstrated significant positive ROI for the host institution. This value is created in numerous ways, including decreased disputing costs, management time savings, and an increase in performance and usage of already operating formal programs such as ethics, compliance, legal, HR, etc. Thus, this highly effective tool is neither costly nor burdensome, but in fact efficient and supportive.
Programs designed to current ombuds profession standards could be fully operational in the investment community in a matter of months, providing significant cost savings, superior creative problem-solving, and expanded communications — the essential attributes for financial firms to overcome the current macro and micro challenges they face. As these improvements become visible to investors, along with the heightened compliance and increased transparency brought about by ombuds activity, the essential process of rebuilding trust in the financial services community via accountability, in the largest sense of the word, can begin.