Important new amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines became effective on Monday, November 1, 2004, including a new requirement to periodically assess the program's effectiveness and a number of other significant changes to the criteria of an effective corporate compliance program. Under the guidelines, the maintenance of an effective compliance program mitigates any punishment (including fines and probation terms) for any federal criminal offense, and regulators and courts are also continuing to emphasize effective compliance programs. The new amendments are especially significant because they place greater responsibility on governing boards and corporate executives for the oversight and management of compliance programs; and refine the definitions of the seven minimum requirements under the guidelines for an effective compliance plan.
A series of related checklists and guidelines have been prepared to assist in meeting the new requirements to review and assess compliance programs. They have been designed to assist in the evaluation of whether the governing board is exercising a proper level of plan oversight, and whether the compliance plan itself may satisfy the definition of effective.