Compliance officers all over North America are closely watching the suit brought by FinCEN, against Tom Haider, the former compliance officer at MoneyGram, which seek to enforce a $1m penalty, levied against Mr. Haider, individually. While all parties to litigation have a constitutional right to access to legal counsel of their choosing, in my humble opinion, Haider's counsel, while seeking, in the litigation, to have their client evade responsibility for his alleged compliance malpractice, through a technical argument, denying FinCEN's legal right to impose individual liability for compliance failures, shows that their client believes that only his former MSB is liable, for his intentional torts.
This is clearly wrong; compliance officers, like all professionals, are personally liable for their individual malpractice, and trying to pass the buck to their company says that they do not accept responsibility for their actions. One cannot hide behind a corporate shield, especially where one's actions are egregious, repeated, and chronic. That is not what compliance officers are about; we are the trusted gatekeepers for our bank, or NBFI, or MSB, or CU clients, and to seek to avoid the consequences of our mistakes, through technical or procedural means, is not only dishonest, but interferes with the trust established between compliance, and bank leadership, who is depending upon us to protect their entity.
If there are no personal consequences for intentional compliance misconduct, then the level of due care a compliance officer takes with his or her work could not only decline, compliance apathy, about quality of work product might ensue, which translates to a substantial raise in operational risk. Keep the bar high, in the compliance field, by supporting good work, and by punishing intentional acts that subject a client to sanctions, monetary damages, or worse.