Big banks that say the U.S. doesn’t understand how tough it is to comply with everything from anti-bribery to antitrust laws are about to gain an ear inside the Justice Department: a former compliance chief from Standard Chartered Bank PLC.
Hui Chen, once the global head of anti-bribery and corruption from the U.K.-based bank, is about to become the department’s first compliance counsel, according to two people familiar with the matter. Chen declined to comment.
The U.S. is creating the position to help advise on corporate criminal prosecutions, drawing on someone with a background in the private sector, Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in a speech today. She didn’t identify who would take on the role.
“Our goal is to have someone who can provide what I’ll call a reality check,” Caldwell said. “We want to get the benefit of the expertise of someone with significant high-level compliance experience across a variety of industries, which this person has," Caldwell said in a speech at a compliance conference put on by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association in Manhattan.
Chen held senior compliance positions at Pfizer Inc. and Microsoft Corp. prior to joining Standard Chartered in 2014, according to profiles on LinkedIn and the Practising Law Institute. She left that post in June 2015 and is currently an independent consultant, according to her LinkedIn profile. Without naming Chen, Caldwell said the new counsel in the Justice Department’s criminal division will start Nov. 3.
Standard Chartered spokeswoman Julie Gibson declined to comment on Chen’s departure or the possibility she was taking on a government position.
The role is designed to add a voice to internal debates at the Department of Justice over whether companies have adequate compliance programs, an important element in decisions over whether to prosecute global banks and multi-national corporations, according to the people.
The compliance counselor will help assess whether companies under investigation have appropriate compliance systems in place. Following any settlement, the counselor would also help the government decide whether the company is making good on its obligation to beef up oversight.
In recent years, the U.S. has entered deferred prosecution agreements with big banks such as Credit Agricole SA and HSBC Holdings Plc over their failure to comply with sanctions or anti-money laundering laws. Investigations into the fixing of interest rates and foreign exchange rates have also required the department to assess compliance programs.
In the past, such decisions were made among groups of senior prosecutors with varying levels of experience in the private sector. A 2008 internal manual instructs prosecutors to ask if compliance programs are well designed, effective and made in good faith.
In 2012, two years before Chen joined Standard Chartered as head of anti-bribery and corruption, the London bank entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and paid $667 million to resolve charges it had improperly facilitated transactions with Iranian customers.
Before joining Standard Chartered, Chen served as an assistant general counsel at Pfizer, where she headed internal compliance investigations across the globe. Previously, she worked in a variety of roles at Microsoft, most recently responsible for compliance issues in China, according to the online biographies.
Before that, Chen spent two years as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., according to her LinkedIn profile. Senior Justice Department officials including Caldwell and Andrew Weissmann, head of the criminal division’s fraud section, were there at the time.
Weissmann, who joined the Justice Department in February, has advocated for the creation of this slot since his arrival, according to one of the people.