Chapter 13. The Skunk in the Room

"Powerful men and beautiful women never get to hear the truth."

Dutch proverb

Imagine this nightmare scenario: three college students wrongly accused of heinous crimes they did not commit, a rogue prosecutor operating with no limitations, the news media reporting every detail of the case, prejudicial comments made by the district attorney that violate the students' constitutional rights and stoke the community's racial tensions, and key pieces of exculpatory evidence withheld. In the end, it was a complete disaster of a case leaving the district attorney's office humiliated and universally scorned, and a long-standing public servant disbarred and leaving office in disgrace.

What does the disturbing 2006–07 saga of former Durham County, North Carolina District Attorney Mike Nifong and the Duke Lacrosse case have to do with compliance? Of course, no CEOs would ever want to see themselves and their companies embroiled in such an embarrassing and damaging scenario. This debacle could have been prevented had the person in charge not been reckless and proceeding without using good judgment. But these facts alone do not link it to compliance. While on the surface this case and corporate compliance are completely separate, there is a lesson in the actions of Nifong and this tragedy that every company would be well served to learn. The case proceeded with outrageous allegations, unfounded and unsupported by the evidence. Every aspect of this case from the ...

Get Building a World-Class Compliance Program: Best Practices and Strategies for Success now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.