The Compliance Function

31 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2023 Last revised: 19 Sep 2023

See all articles by Jennifer Arlen

Jennifer Arlen

New York University School of Law; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Date Written: July 7, 2023


This Chapter identifies the features of the corporate compliance function and the steps countries should take to induce companies to implement effective compliance. The compliance function is comprised of the set of corporate inventions that deter corporate misconduct. Using empirical psychology, this Chapter shows that important aspects of corporate compliance reside outside a company’s compliance program as typically designed. For example, the compliance function includes the company’s compensation, promotion and retention policies and its approach to self-reporting misconduct to, and fully cooperating with, enforcement authorities. Countries cannot induce effective compliance through regulatory mandates alone because optimal compliance varies too widely across firms and is not readily assessable by either enforcement officials or courts. Thus countries must instead incentivize corporations to implement effective compliance functions holding them criminally liable for their employees’ misconduct. Corporate liability must be structured to remove their expected profit from corporate crime and induce them to detect and self-report misconduct and fully cooperate. In addition, directors and officers must be subject to explicit properly-tailored duties to promote effective compliance enforced through liability for bad faith breach and clawbacks.

Keywords: compliance, white collar, corporate crime, behavioral ethics, corporate liability, Caremark, claw backs

Suggested Citation

Arlen, Jennifer, The Compliance Function (July 7, 2023). NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 23-38, NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 23-54, Available at SSRN: or

Jennifer Arlen (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States


European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
Rue Ducale 1 Hertogsstraat
1000 Brussels

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