A 2015 New York Times article by Gretchen Morgenson, entitled “Ways to Put the Boss’s Skin In the Game”, dealt with a long-standing question about how to make senior executives more responsible for corporate malfeasance? Her article had direct application to compliance programs and compensation for senior management tied to compliance. Morgenson said the issue was “Whenever a big corporation settles an enforcement matter with prosecutors, penalties levied in the case – and they can be enormous – are usually paid by the company’s shareholders. Yet the people who actually did the deeds or oversaw the operations rarely so much as open their wallets.”

She went on to explain the economic phenomenon of “perverse incentives” wherein executives are encouraged to take excessive risk because they can profit so much from them, all the while knowing they probably won’t have to pay any fines or face other costly consequences of their actions. To help remedy this situation, the idea has come to the fore about senior managers putting some “skin in the game.

Three key takeaways:

  1. Perverse incentives are named that for a reason; they really are bad.
  2. How can you create positive incentives in your organization?
  3. There is a business response to the legal issue. Employ it.