What is a Compliance Executive?

compliance executiveOne of the most important jobs in any organization is that of a compliance executive, sometimes called a compliance officer or a chief compliance officer at the highest levels. This position makes sure that a company is following all state, federal, and professional guidelines that govern a given industry. Their constant observation and research into these guidelines can save the company from expensive and damaging litigation, which might cause problems in terms of finances, reputation, or even market share, if the issue at hand is not addressed early enough. Typically, compliance executives and officers work within a few crucial company departments to ensure full compliance with all laws.


The accounting department is perhaps the most significant area of risk when it comes to compliance with professional and government guidelines. Accounting itself is considered self-regulating in terms of ethics, thanks to the adoption of GAAP, or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Many of these principles have been integrated into federal and state laws as well, however, and it’s the compliance officer’s job to make sure that everyone in the department is preparing financial statements and documentations within the law and within ethical guidelines.

A compliance officer often works alongside an auditor, or a larger team of many auditors, to examine accounting documents after they’re finished and submitted. If they notice irregularities, they’ll address the issue with the proper employee and resolve it before it causes problems in earnings reports and financial disclosures.

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The finance department is also another area of major risk for overall regulatory compliance, especially if the company is involved in investing and managing numerous mechanisms to help fund its growth. These investments can quickly go south and enter into ethically questionable territory. Businesses that make questionable investments might use sketchy mechanisms, like default swaps, or they might be using inside industry knowledge to make better trades. Both practices are either frowned upon or illegal, and compliance officers will be responsible for preventing, identifying, and stopping such practices as soon as possible.

Healthcare Policy

Compliance executives are a common sight in larger hospitals and smaller clinics, since this industry is full of laws that control everything from patient privacy to proper treatment and physician access. Even the efficiency and level of care offered is tightly regulated by the federal government. Compliance executives review handbooks and training materials, observe physician practices, and make regular reports on facility compliance and areas where improvement might be needed in order to properly deliver care and meet federal benchmarks for its effective delivery.

Communications and Public Relations

According to the American College of Healthcare Executives, a compliance executive is often heavily involved in company communications, since there are many laws that govern what a private employer can say, when they can say it, and how their language might affect investors, directors, and other stakeholders, as well as consumers. Federally imposed quiet periods during certain business transactions also exist, and compliance executives will make sure that these laws are strictly followed when required.

Related Resource: MBA in Accounting

A High-Stakes Job that Protects Companies from Litigation and More

Compliance with federal laws, state mandates, and ethical guidelines, is absolutely essential to running a successful business. Professional businesspeople who wish to work as a compliance executive will find plenty of opportunities that range from monitoring accounting an finance to oversight of healthcare delivery and even construction of company press releases and other communications efforts.