January 20, 2023

Is employee political contributions compliance still mission critical for regulatory compliance programs in off years?

Short answer. Yes.

Employee political contributions compliance, otherwise known as pay-to-play compliance, remains a core compliance challenge both in on and off election years. While major elections, like we saw in 2022, draws in more excitement and awareness, your employees are likely contributing to their political parties’ years round, every year.

How do we know?

Based on polling taken across on and off election years, we found a constant increase in political contribution and giving. Although the increases were greater in on election years, we continued to see increases year-over-year even as we moved from an on to an off election year.

A trend which indicates the continued presence and risk for firms who rely on government contracted work and cannot simply turn off their political contribution verification and monitoring program simply because a major election will not be occurring in the coming 12 months.

Meeting employee political contributions compliance requirements with automated solutions

With the quantity of both contributions and dollars spent each year, manually monitoring and verifying each of your covered associated political contributions has become near impossible. Especially when you take into consideration the need for firms to comply with the multiple and varied requirements from federal, state and local political contributions compliance regulations.

Which is where technology and automation come into play.

By embracing an automated answer to your political contributions compliance challenge, you ease the burden placed on yourself and your team, allowing your compliance program to take action based on the analysis of contributions being made. Instead of getting lost in the busy-work of verifying and reverifying who contributed what to which party.

While technology is by no means a catch all for your entire compliance program – after all you still need policies, procedures and processes in place to support your technology – it does aid in relieving manual processes and decreasing the risk of human error.

Backed by strong political contribution policies and procedures, a firm-wide culture of compliance and a comprehensive political contribution verification and monitoring technology, your firm can reduce risk and remain compliant in on and off years alike.

In November of 2021, ComplySci announced the acquisition of illumis, a premier data aggregator and technology provider whose solutions are used by financial services firms to identify and mitigate risk from employee political contributions. While the initial acquisition saw the firms operating as two independent organizations, we are thrilled to announce the merging of the illumis and ComplySci brands. With this initiative, we aim to arm our clients with a more comprehensive solution to mitigating compliance risk, which includes the increased risk associated with employee political contributions.

Political contributions made by firm employees pose a significant threat to investment advisory firms. And even firms with the best compliance teams can be at risk of violating pay-to-play regulations, like the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) rule 206(4)-5, given the complexity of the rules and the myriad of regulations to which firms must comply.

Because of this, investment firms must arm themselves with the access to and support of real-time data, which can help identify potential violations and anomalies in the political donation process.

By leveraging real-time data, investment firms can quickly detect suspicious or unauthorized activities and take prompt action to prevent pay-to-play violations.

SEC Rule 206(4)-5 is arguably the most well known regulation regarding political contributions compliance or pay-to-play compliance. However, it certainly isn’t the only regulation to which firms must comply.

In fact, beyond federal regulations, firms which take part in government contracted work must contend with numerous and varied state and local regulations as well. Such regulations present unique challenges because of the various requirements within each, which should they be neglected, can cause significant financial and reputational damage.