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Prison Professors

Nov 16, 2020

Hello to you. My name is Michael Santos and on behalf of everyone on our team, I welcome you. Our websites include and


We offer services to help people and businesses with risk mitigation and avoiding government investigations.


For those who have been targeted for prosecution, we create mitigation strategies. We help with sentencing and preparations for the journey ahead.


Visit us at either Prison Professors dot com or compliance mitigation dot com. Call or text 949-205-6056.


Episode: 153: Why Every Business Should Invest in Compliance Training


If we ask any group to give us their impression of successful technology companies, we’re likely to hear the following names:

  • Apple,
  • Google,
  • Facebook,
  • Amazon, and
  • Microsoft.

Many of us would consider the above-mentioned companies as models of excellence. They’re famous for creating trillions of dollars in value, creating millions of jobs, generating billions of dollars in tax revenues, and providing enormous value to consumers.

Besides being success stories, the companies share something else in common.

Each of the above-mentioned companies has been the subject of a government investigation.

Our team at Compliance Mitigation does not make a judgment call with regard to the reasons behind the investigation, or the usefulness that the investigation would serve. Rather, we want more entrepreneurs, business leaders, and team members to understand how government investigations can threaten businesses and careers. The more a person knows, the more equipped a person becomes to make better decisions—hopefully to avoid being brought in as a witness, a subject, or a target of a government investigation.

From our perspective:

  • Business leaders define success by solving problems for customers, bringing value to shareholders, and creating jobs that contribute to vibrant communities.
  • When investigators begin their task, they define success by obstructing business operations, or complicating the lives of business leaders and the entire teams that they target.

Big-government leaders do not limit their attacks to the most successful companies. Elected officials create many government agencies that investigate business operations, business leaders, and people who have decision-making power in businesses. That means even small companies—and leaders of those companies that have decision-making power—are also vulnerable to government investigations and to charges for white collar crimes.

For that reason, it makes sense for business leaders to learn about government investigations. That insight can help people involved in businesses both save and make money.

You might ask, “How can investing in compliance help a company or people make more money?” 

  • Compliance is all about transparency. It’s about documenting processes and following best-practice approaches to business. The more we train people how to follow such procedures, the more effective we become at messaging. If we communicate well, we’re more successful at showing the value proposition we offer.

How does investing in compliance help a company or an individual save more money?

  • Investing time and energy to develop effective compliance systems is like an insurance policy. It can lead to lower business insurance costs, and it can lower the enormous risks that business owners and decision makers have to reserve for litigation expenses. Good compliance systems can also lower the risk levels to corporate fraud.

Besides saving or making money, investing in ongoing compliance training represents an excellent insurance policy for the company. No company wants to become the subject of a government investigation. They are costly. In many cases, those costs exceed millions of dollars, both for the business and in many cases, for individuals. Investigations, potentially, can obliterate a business and lead to loss of liberty for some people.



In June 2020, the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division updated its Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs. Essentially, the government white paper offered guidelines for prosecutors to consider when they deliberated over offering leniency, non-prosecution agreements, or deferred-prosecution agreements to businesses. According to the guidance, prosecutors must question the business as follows:

  1. 1. Is the corporation’s compliance well designed?
  2. 2. Is the program being applied earnestly and in good faith? In other words, is the program adequately resourced and empowered to function effectively?
  3. 3. Does the corporation’s compliance program work in practice?

If we know that prosecutors will ask those questions when assessing a business’s compliance program, then business leaders and team members should ask similar questions. By investing time, energy, and resources to understand the importance of compliance, leaders can design a best-practice approach in the design of their compliance training.

Large companies may deploy resources to hire white-glove law firms that specialize in risk management. Those law firms may earn millions of dollars in fees by doing a deep dive to understand a company’s operations. They will perform risk assessments to identify potential problems, assessing the regulatory landscape, the potential clients and the business partners, as well as transactions with foreign governments, payments to foreign officials, use of third parties, political contributions, and so forth.

Small to mid-size companies may not have the resources to hire such law firms. Yet if they’re doing business, their lack of resources will not make them any less vulnerable to investigations and potential prosecution. In fact, those small- to medium-sized businesses may be easier targets for government investigators.

For this reason, all businesses benefit by helping team members learn more about the real-life consequences that followed for people that lost their liberty as a result of government investigations. Such training spreads awareness on the collateral consequences that follow bad decisions made during the course of business.

In making people more aware, our team at Compliance Mitigation can lessen risks for individuals, and for businesses that want to show a commitment to minimizing problems with regulators.

Companies that want to minimize risk levels would do well to train their team members. As we say at, we did the time so you won’t have to.


Corporate Fraud:

Internal corporate fraud is an ever-growing problem. Government prosecutors bring charges against thousands of people every month for white collar crimes. Those charges leave businesses vulnerable to ongoing problems, including massive legal fees, large fines, and potentially, criminal liabilities.

Management leaders may not have a clear process on how to prevent fraud, or how to respond if they uncover a fraud. We offer this introductory compliance course to assist companies with the following objectives:

  1. (i) Help all team members understand the implications of a government investigation,
  2. (ii) Identify best practices within corporate operations, and encourage employee compliance,
  3. (iii) Improve messaging and corporate storytelling,
  4. (iv) Minimize risk to litigation,
  5. (v) Teach businesses how to develop a best-practice approach to respond to a government investigation,
  6. (vi) Develop a mitigation strategy in the event of a government investigation.

We encourage company leaders to use the modules our team at Compliance Mitigation creates to help more people understand the costs and collateral consequences of a government investigation. Strength comes through proper preparation.

Members of our team have worked with numerous entrepreneurs that didn’t know their business practices violated regulations, or how their policies could expose them to the enormous costs of litigation or a government investigation.

For example, a small business that advertised debt-relief services accepted advance payments from consumers. The business owner hired scores of telemarketers that sold the service. By accepting advance payments from consumers, the business leaders and decisions makers made themselves vulnerable to government investigations. They didn’t understand the Federal Trade Commission’s prohibitions against collecting advance fees.


Nor did they understand how a government investigation could lead to:

  • litigation,
  • an asset freeze, and
  • forfeitures that would cripple their business.

Good compliance training helps leaders make better decisions. By investing time to both learn and teach, leaders can create a culture that minimizes exposure to risks in an era of big government.

Larger companies have different complications. People become complacent, expecting that they’re operating without risk to regulation or interference from government. Sadly, many rank-and-file employees get dragged into investigations. Their responses to the investigations can bring them into further problems. Our nation’s prison system confines thousands of people that once worked in large companies. Prosecutors convicted those people of white-collar crimes, even though the people professed to be doing their jobs without any knowledge that they were breaking laws.

Other people began working in a company with the best of intentions. Yet something happened during the course of the person’s career. Thinking that they could get away with something, they engaged in behavior without fully understanding the consequences. For example, consider the case of David Smith, who faced charges for crimes he committed while on the job as a manager at Quest Diagnostics.

David concocted a reimbursement scheme, creating systems that would lead his employer to reimburse him for fraudulent expenses that ran through a complex web of transactions. Smith created fake companies, invoices, and expense reports for payments he’d supposedly made on Quest’s behalf. An internal investigation revealed that Smith had forged his boss’s signature. The internal investigation uncovered losses totaling more than $1.2 million. Quest referred the case to the FBI. A judge sentenced Smith to five years in prison. Beside the financial loss and Smith’s criminal liability, the distraction undermined confidence in Quest Diagnostic’s management team.


Better compliance training serves companies and individuals by:

  • Broadening an awareness of the consequences that follow white collar crime,
  • Helping people think before they compromise their values,
  • Providing transparency into businesses processes, potentially lessening occurrences of internal corporate fraud.


Fraud Triangle:

People like David, in the example above, may not set out to engage in fraudulent behavior. Educators identified a “Fraud Triangle” that, theoretically, created a perfect storm for fraud. The three corners of the triangle include:

  • Opportunity: A person like David Smith had to be in the position that would allow him to create the scheme. If he were not in a managerial position, he would not have been able to initiate the scam.
  • Pressure: David Smith’s supervisors may have considered him a competent, trustworthy employee. They may not have known pressures he felt in his personal life.
  • Rationalization: A person like David Smith may think that the company is so big and profitable that no one would even notice the missing funds.


Although hindsight is 20/20, we can always learn from real case studies:

  • What if Quest Diagnostics invested more resources in its compliance systems?
  • What if the training systems included lessons on the high costs of corporate fraud, both for the business and for the people that knowingly engage in white-collar crime?
  • David Smith may have been in a position to commit the fraud, he may have felt pressure, and he may have been able to rationalize his crime. The question remains: would better training have convinced him to act with more integrity?

Consider the example of Walt Pavlo, a person who writes a popular column for Forbes online. In January 2001, a federal judge sentenced Walt Pavlo to 41 months in federal prison. The sentence followed Pavlo’s conviction for white-collar crimes that included money laundering, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice.

Walt had worked hard to earn an engineering degree and an MBA. Those credentials led to a leadership position at MCI WorldCom, one of the world’s most valuable companies at the turn of the century. In his role as a finance manager, Walt described pressure he felt to report higher revenues than the company earned. The supervisors that oversaw his department wanted to boost WorldCom’s financial performance, likely with pressure from the top. When Walt saw that other leaders entered fraudulent transactions, he felt justified to create his own fraud to enrich himself.

Ordinary people may not expect a multi-billion-dollar, global corporation like WorldCom to engage in fraud. Neither would they expect a family man with a professional education to exploit the fraud he discovered—then create his own scam.

Members of our team have met and interacted with thousands of people that served time for white-collar crimes. Despite leading or working with companies that had compliance-training manuals, they did not get the message.


Human Stories of Noncompliance and Fraud:

To make compliance a part of any corporate culture, leaders should include regular training that includes real-life stories. Those stories will help all team members appreciate the magnitude of problems that come with a government investigation. When leaders and team members grasp the severity of consequences, fewer people will participate in the type of behavior that can increase risk levels for businesses and organizations.

As an added bonus, by investing in compliance training that works, businesses and individuals may qualify for leniency or mitigation in the event that investigators begin asking questions.

It’s impossible to predict who might commit fraud within an organization. The vast majority of people that engage in white-collar crime do not have criminal histories. Yet as the theory of the fraud triangle suggests:

  • those people may be in a position to commit fraud;
  • they may feel pressure that induces them to participate in fraud;
  • they may rationalize their behavior for any number of reasons.

Good training may lower risk levels for businesses and for individuals. Consider statements that our team at Compliance Mitigation found online:

  • According to Carnegie Mellon University’s report on Insider Fraud in Financial Services, employees working in accounting, operations, sales, upper management, customer service, purchasing, and finance commit 75% of all corporate fraud.
  • Employers frequently assume that people always act with integrity, even after being hired. Since businesses incentivize managers to focus on meeting targets and goals rather than detecting fraud, commitment to ongoing compliance training frequently suffers.
  • In a report that Intel published, Grand Theft Data, inside sources cause 42% of all company security breaches. Those security breaches can lead to government investigations and litigation, exposing businesses and individuals to enormous levels of stress.
  • Corporate fraud represents one of the government’s highest criminal priorities. The FBI estimates that white-collar crime costs Americans more than $300 billion annually. Those crimes run the gamut, from accounting schemes designed to deceive management, investors, auditors, and analysts about the true financial condition of a company, to cases involving fraud on the government and insurers, vendors, and clients.  Government agencies scrutinize telemarketers, brokers, crypto currency businesses, cannabis, financial services, and the healthcare field.
  • The FBI partners with numerous agencies to capitalize on their experience in specific areas such as securities, taxes, pensions, energy, and commodities. The Bureau has placed greater emphasis on investigating allegations of these frauds, and FBI agents frequently broaden their reach by partnering with other agencies, such as the:
    • Securities and Exchange Commission
    • Commodity Futures Trading Commission
    • Federal Trade Commission
    • Internal Revenue Service
    • Department of Labor
    • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,
    • US Postal Service
    • Secret Service.
    • The Department of Homeland Security has its own independent mandate to criminally pursue fraud, financial crimes involving blackmail, contract fraud, grant fraud, money laundering, bribery, immigration fraud and program theft. 
    • Government investigations are likely to increase as a result of COVID-19. The CARES Act, subjects companies to additional scrutiny by establishing three new oversight bodies:
    • (i) the Office of the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery within the Treasury Department;
    • (ii) the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, consisting of the IGs for Departments of Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, Labor and the Treasury, among others; and
    • (iii) the Congressional Oversight Commission.  In fact, dozens of cases have already been brought in connection with abuse of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP).

The Value Proposition

Building a compliance program will protect businesses, shareholders, communities, and individuals. On the surface, the investment may feel like a wasteful expense and hassle. Yet effective compliance programs represent an opportunity to both increase revenues and decrease risk for debilitating costs. They provide an excellent return with peace-of-mind. As an aside, they may pay for themselves in a variety of ways, including:

  • Eliminating fraud, waste, and theft of company assets
  • Creating a more inspiring corporate culture with transparency
  • Opening opportunities for increased efficiencies

An effective program will improve internal communications and messaging with prospective customers.

Good compliance metrics may also put a company in a good position for a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), which may avoid total disruption. In these cases, the government brings an action but realizes it needs the assistance of the company itself in order to prove wrongdoing by the individuals involved. For example, federal prosecutors entered into Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Samsung Heavy Industries in 2019. The company agreed to settle matters by paying a fine and cooperating in with the government’s investigation of bribery. The DPA likely saved millions of dollars for shareholders and may have spared some people from going to prison.

Maintaining compliance equips employees to do their jobs well, reach career goals, and keep customers happy. To paraphrase Warren Buffet:

  • It takes five years to grow a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it.


An integrated compliance program becomes a valuable corporate asset. Leverage the compliance training so that people can empower themselves to reach their highest potential. By showing everyone to act in accordance with corporate values, leaders protect the enterprise, the team members, and shareholder value.