The world, and most certainly the United States, is awash in rules and
regulations. Regulations in their various stripes are necessary for civil
society to function. I must have some standard by which I relate to you or
you and I will not have a relationship. A society without relationships is not
a society. A society without rules is not a society. But a decalogue of basic
rules is not the social order we live in these days.
The most basic rules of civil society are laws, and they are legion. Some
are written and others unwritten. Law looks differently in different times and
in different cultures. Sometimes its civil form is brutish and sharp and other
times weak and thin, and still other times, though rarely, just right.
Complying with law is not new; it is part of who we are as political animals.
But discerning how to comply with the law is a different matter entirely from
the generally accepted notion that we must comply with (legitimate) law. The
regulated actor must identify the laws that regulate it, figure out how to apply
those laws to its operations, train its workforce on how to comply, and check
whether compliance is actually occurring. This is no easy feat. It takes
organization and forethought. Reflexively doing the right thing these days
offers no safe harbor from being on the wrong side of the administrative
The new Journal of Regulatory Compliance marches into the jungle of the
administrative state not so much to machete a path through it but to observe,
record, and ponder it, mostly from the perspective of the regulated actor
seeking to comply with the law. But this Journal will not stop with the law
or the letter of a regulation. Compliance has come to mean more than just
following the law. Compliance means conforming actions to an
organization’s policies that apply the law in a company’s unique setting and
compliance increasingly means moving the organization to ethical decision-making when law and policy are silent. At a minimum, compliance involves
following the law, but the rest is still a work in progress.
Not yet having a clear definition of compliance is not too surprising. We
are witnessing the solidification of the compliance profession as a career
track and the compliance office as a permanent part of corporate life, but it is
only recently that the academy has stopped to scrutinize and comment on
compliance. It will likely be a while before there is a solid definition of
compliance and as the use of the term ambles along in language and business,
this Journal intends to be at the forefront chronicling its meaning.
The Journal has at least three over-arching themes. ( 1) An ongoing