New York (June 18, 2003) -- Despite a wave of ethical lapses in major corporations, ethics officers say their boards of directors have never received training in ethics or compliance issues, The Conference Board reported.

While 81 percent of firms have conducted ethics and compliance training among their employees, only 27 percent have held any training sessions for their directors, according to the survey of more than 80 ethics, human resources and legal officers. About 55 percent of those surveyed say their boards are "not engaged enough" in major ethical issues involving the company.

Some 67 percent of executives said compensation for senior executives is "out of control" in their companies. Sixty-two percent acknowledged that executives who leave because of major violations of the company's ethics and compliance codes "get a financial package and go." Wrongdoing executives leave the company without a package in 38 percent of the firms.

While most believe corporate ethics training can play only a modest role in preventing major scandals, they say it won't halt malfeasance in all companies. About 42 percent say ethics training would have made no difference in the Health South scandals, and a majority said ethics training wouldn’t have prevented Enron.

A majority of firms surveyed have toll-free hot lines for employees to report concerns about ethical lapses. However, 69 percent of the executives say that fear of retaliation is a "big issue" in their companies. Only 6 percent say their companies have a "culture of dissent" where employees can openly speak their minds.

-- WebCPA staff

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