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Abstract

Professionals working inside companies may bring with them frames of mind set by their professional experience and socialization. Lawyers, in particular, are said to “think like a lawyer”—to have a lawyer cast of mind. In seeking power within a company and in exercising the power that they obtain, professionals may draw on their professional background to frame, name, diagnose, and prescribe a remedy for the company’s problems. In making decisions about their compliance with the law, companies are constrained not only by their environment, but also by their agents’ understanding of whose (or what) interests the company should serve. In particular, compliance managers’ understandings will frame and influence their companies’ calculations of the value, benefits, and costs of compliance activities. The profession of the compliance manager then may influence how the company complies with the law. This Article uses data from a survey of 999 large Australian businesses to examine the professional background of the person in charge of compliance and (1) how they analyze the costs, benefits and risks of non-compliance; and (2) their company’s structures and practices of compliance. Contrary to our hypotheses, we find that the professional background of the individual responsible for compliance has little impact on a company’s compliance management structures and practices or assessment of stakeholders. The exceptions are that having a lawyer in charge of compliance is associated with the company’s perception of heightened legal risk; and where the person in charge of compliance is a lawyer, the company compliance efforts will be marked by manuals and training programs, but not more fulsome compliance structures, which are present when a compliance specialist leads the department. Unfortunately, our data also reveals that these compliance structures are generally merely formal—and likely largely symbolic.

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