|Publication number||US20050065865 A1|
|Application number||US 10/696,571|
|Publication date||Mar 24, 2005|
|Filing date||Oct 30, 2003|
|Priority date||Sep 18, 2003|
|Also published as||CA2441516A1, US20090089195|
|Publication number||10696571, 696571, US 2005/0065865 A1, US 2005/065865 A1, US 20050065865 A1, US 20050065865A1, US 2005065865 A1, US 2005065865A1, US-A1-20050065865, US-A1-2005065865, US2005/0065865A1, US2005/065865A1, US20050065865 A1, US20050065865A1, US2005065865 A1, US2005065865A1|
|Inventors||Felicia Salomon, Adam Mason, Khashayar Sajadi, Dino Skordoulis|
|Original Assignee||Felicia Salomon, Adam Mason, Khashayar Sajadi, Dino Skordoulis|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (4), Referenced by (17), Classifications (6)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The invention relates to a system and method for evaluating compliance of a company to regulatory requirements, in particular, a method for a company listed on a stock exchange to evaluate its compliance to regulatory requirements for the exchange.
When a company is listed on a trading exchange, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the NASDAQ, the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), the FTSE or any other stock exchange, the company must comply with reporting requirements and corporate governance requirements mandated by the stock exchange in order to maintain its listing thereon. Reporting requirements may include timely filing of annual reports, quarterly reports and other reports within deadlines based on the fiscal year-end date. Governance requirements may include having a corporate policy in place regarding accounting procedures. Also, federal, state and provincial laws must be followed. Failure to comply with the requirements may lead to penalties being assessed against the company and its officers and directors. The penalties may include fines, sanctions and in an extreme scenario, removal of the company from the exchange. Further, non-compliance with the requirements may cause a loss of confidence in the stability of the company, potentially leading to a sell-off of the shares of the company and a reduction in its stock price.
As companies become larger and more diverse and as corporate filings and legal requirement change, it is becoming increasingly difficult for a corporation to ensure that it is in compliance with all the regulatory requirements of a governing body. For example, the reporting requirements under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the United States imposes stiff penalties for non-compliance with its reporting requirements, which are in addition to reporting requirements to the relevant exchanges. There is a need for a system which provides an evaluation of a company's efforts to comply with such requirements.
In a first aspect, a method for tracking compliance by a company to regulatory requirements is provided. The method comprises the following steps: defining company records relating to the company and storing company records in a database; defining questions related to requirements found in the regulatory requirements and storing the questions in the database; defining default answers related to the questions and storing the default answers in the database; assigning the questions for answering by a user at the company; receiving answers from the user and storing the answers in the database; upon request, conducting an evaluation of compliance by the company to the set of regulations by accessing the database, extracting the answers, the questions and the default answers therefrom, evaluating the answers against the default answers and determining therefrom a compliance level of the answers to the regulatory requirements; and generating a report of regulatory compliance providing the compliance level.
The method may have the compliance level being selected from one of the following levels: incomplete compliance if the answers do not contain answers for all questions in the set of questions; full compliance if the answers are complete and the answers match requirements of the default answers; and non-compliance if the answers are complete and the answers do not match requirements of the default answers.
The method may assign the questions for answering by the user by associating a title with the user and associating the title with the questions.
The method may further define control documents relating to the regulatory requirements, where the control documents provide text extracted from the regulatory requirements. The control documents may be stored in the database. Further the method may generate the report with a first link to the set of questions and a second link to the set of control documents.
The method may further track any changes made to the compliance level and, upon request, produce an audit report identifying the any changes made to the compliance level.
In the method, the company records may comprise a hierarchy of records and the questions may comprise a hierarchy of records containing the default answers. Further, the control documents may comprise a hierarchy of records and may be linked to the questions and may be linked to the companies.
The method may further, upon request, produce a calendar of events for a timeframe associated with the regulatory requirements. This may be done by accessing the database, extracting events from the database which are associated with the regulatory requirements for the timeframe and generating a calendar report of the events from the database.
In a second aspect, a system for tracking compliance of a company against a regulatory requirement is provided. The system comprises a database, an administrative module, a user entry module, a database access module, a question module, an evaluation module and a report module.
The database contains the following records: records relating to the company and other companies; question information related to the regulatory requirement including questions and default answers related to an aspect of the regulatory requirement associated with the company; a user of the system associated with the company; and other user associated with other companies. The administrative module allows entering of administrative data relating to the company and storing of the administrative data in the database in the company record. The user entry module allows entering of user data relating to the user and storing the user data in the database in the user record. The database access module accesses the database and determines relevant questions for the user utilising the user and the company data in the database. The question module provides the questions to the user, accepts answers to the questions and stores the answers in the database. The evaluation module evaluates compliance by the company to the aspect of the regulatory requirement. It accesses the database, extracts the answers and the default answers, evaluates the answers against the default answers and determines therefrom a compliance level of the answers to the aspect of the regulatory requirement. The report module generates a report of regulatory compliance providing the compliance level.
In the system the evaluation module may determine the compliance level from a selection from one of the following levels: unassigned compliance if the user has not been entered into the system; incomplete compliance if the answers do not contain answers for all questions in the questions; full compliance if the answers are complete and the answers match requirements of the default answers; and non-compliance if the answers are complete and the answers do not match requirements of the default answers.
In the system the database may further comprise control documents relating to the regulatory requirement, providing text extracted from the regulatory requirement. Also, the report module may further produce a first link to the questions and a second link to the control documents.
The system may further comprise a module for tracking any changes made to the compliance level and for producing an audit report identifying the any changes made to the compliance level.
The system may further comprise a calendar module to produce a calendar of events for a timeframe associated with the regulatory requirement. The calendar is produced by accessing the database and extracting events from the database which are associated with the regulatory requirement for the timeframe and generating a calendar report of the events from the database.
The system may have a super user whom has access to the system. Further, the system may be responsive to requests from the super user in accepting data associated with the user and in generating the report.
In the system, the module for entering user data relating may further associate a title with the user and the module for providing questions to the user may utilise the title to identify the questions for the user.
The system may generate a report for the super user indicating a list of questions assigned to the user.
The system may provide a user with access to the system through a web-enabled computer and the super user with access through a second web-enabled computer.
In the system, the regulatory requirement may relate to a requirement for a stock exchange.
In other aspects of the invention, various combinations and subset of the above aspects are provided.
The foregoing and other aspects of the invention will become more apparent from the following description of specific embodiments thereof and the accompanying drawings which illustrate, by way of example only, the principles of the invention. In the drawings, where like elements feature like reference numerals (and wherein individual elements bear unique alphabetical suffixes):
The description which follows, and the embodiments described therein, are provided by way of illustration of an example, or examples, of particular embodiments of the principles of the present invention. These examples are provided for the purposes of explanation, and not limitation, of those principles and of the invention. In the description which follows, like parts are marked throughout the specification and the drawings with the same respective reference numerals.
At a basic level, system 100 provides access to software which provides a user with a series of predefined questions relating to specific operations of the company, its structure and its reporting activities. The answers from the user are logged in system 100 and are provided to a compliance engine which analyses the answers against identified compliance requirements. System 100 then generates a compliance report indicating areas in which the company is and is not in compliance with the compliance requirements.
To facilitate processing of questions, system 100 organises questions into groups. For example, questions relating to financial reports may be grouped into a financial group of questions; questions relating to litigation matters may be grouped into a litigation group of questions. Each group of questions may be assigned to a different person in the company. For example, the chief financial officer (CFO) may be assigned to answer the financial group of questions and the corporate counsel may be assigned to answer the litigation group of questions.
As there is the possibility of having several persons at the company using system 100, system 100 provides different levels of access to different users. There are two types of users at the company: a super user and a “normal” user. The super user is a person whom has access to the most features of system 100 for a given company. The super user can designate whom in the company: has access to which set of questions; can monitor the status of the answers provided by the persons; and can view the reports generated by system 100. Typically, the super user is the highest-ranking person at the company, such as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). For the purpose of system 100 described herein, the term “super user” shares some, but not all capabilities as a UNIX system administrator “super user”. A “normal” user (herein simply “user”) is a person at the company whom has been assigned to answer a set of questions. There are typically many users at the company. The super user can also add and delete users from system 100, assign organisational roles to users and view all answers submitted by a user. For the administration of the system, there are two types of users: an administrator and a data entry user. The administrator is the overall system administrator and has the most control over operational aspects of system 100. Typically, the administrator is an operational person who is responsible for maintaining the operation of system 100 itself. After a super user is identified, the administrator provides him with an account comprising a super user identification (ID) and password for the company. A data entry user is a person whom enter tables, charts and data relating to the questions, answers and control of system 100.
Referring to FIGS. 2B(i) and 2B(ii), in order to have system 100 evaluate a company, certain details about the operation and size of the company must be provided to system 100. This is preferably done by the super user. After the super user logs into system 100, system 100 presents an option screen to him (not shown), where organisational charts and company profiles may be completed. In
Further detail is provided on aspects of questions within question group 212. As shown, question 214 presents the user with the question:
“Does the Company's audit committee pre-approve all permissible non-audit services and all audit, review and attest engagements required under the securities laws?”
It will be seen that the phrasing of question 214 is preferably restricted to ensure that the only possible answers are provided in answer selection 216, namely only either “Yes”, “No” or “Does Not Apply (DNA)”. This restriction minimises possible misunderstanding the intent of question 214 by the user and mis-keying of answers by the user. System 100 is enabled to accept an answer input from the user for each question and to record each answer against each question. In one embodiment system 100 may provide a series of “radio buttons” for each answer for selective activation by the user. A dialog box may be provided with certain questions allowing the user to elaborate on the answer provided. For example, in the dialog box, a reference may be provided to a relevant part of the company's annual report. Each question group 212 may 10 include tens of questions or more. As such, the full set of questions in question group 212 is provided to the user one screen at a time. For each screen, there is a confirmation box 218 at the bottom of the screen. Confirmation box 218 asks the user if the answers provided to the questions in the current screen for question group 212 are correct; the user must be completed with a confirmation “Yes” selection 220 to submit answers to the displayed question group 212 to system 100. Preferably, upon confimnation of the questions in the screen, the answers thereto are provided to system 100. After answers to a screen of questions in question group 212 are submitted to system 100, they are entered in to a decision matrix in a database associated with system 100 for further processing. Further detail on the decision matrix is provided below.
Further detail is provided on records used by system 100 to facilitate tracking and evaluation of answers provided by a user to questions posted by system 100. The main types of documents used to organise the questions are: control documents, questionnaires, questions groups, and help files. While the documents provide text information to the user, inherent relationships amongst parts of the documents to other documents link the documents to each other. Such links, as will be described in greater detail below, provide flexibility in associating many companies to certain control documents, many users to certain companies and various reports to various users.
It will be appreciated that control document 222, as an extract from compliance regulations or legislation, contains information and requirements in a series of structured, hierarchical levels following well-understood nested paragraphs. System 100 has a data structure which provides a template of the structure and contents of each control document in order to track and process the requirements of the control document against answers provided to questions. To assist with tracking the levels and the answers associated with them, each level is classed into a ranked level. As shown, control document 222 organises the information into 5 levels:
Also, each control document 222 is associated with one questionnaire. In system 100, a questionnaire provides a shortened version of the relevant section of control document 222 and all of the question groups associated with the control document. The questionnaire may be viewed by a user to enable him to get an overall view of the questions in all the question groups and the regulatory provisions relating to the questions.
Also, a help file is associated with each control document, the related set of questions and the questionnaire. Each help file is accessible as an html link in the web page to assist the users to educate themselves in regard to the information contained within the control documents and avoid the complexities of dealing with the statutes, rules and regulations on their own.
System 100 continually tracks answers to question group 212. It notifies the super user whether assigned question groups have been answered and which sets remain unanswered. The super user can initiate processing of the compliance evaluator at any time. After processing the answers through the compliance evaluator, system 100 generates several reports indicating the level of compliance for a client company. These reports will indicate whether the company is in compliance with governance requirements. Report 244 is an exemplary governance compliance report generated on the basis of existing answers provided to question group 212 to system 100. Therein, for each control document 222, an entry in column 246 is provided. For each control document entry in column 246, there is a corresponding entry for: (i) a questionnaire in column 248; (ii) a question group in column 250; (iii) a user associated with the question group in column 252; and (iv) a status report of the question group in column 254. The status report is generated by system 100.
In the embodiment, the compliance evaluation process in system 100 generates four possible statuses: “Pending Allocation”, “Pending Completion”, “Compliant”, and “Non-compliant”. A “Pending Allocation” report indicates that the question group has not been assigned to a person; the typical corrective action is that the super user will identify an appropriate person to be responsible for answering the question group. A “Pending Completion” report indicates that the question group has been assigned to a person, but that the person has not yet fully completed answering the questions therein. A “Compliant” report indicates that all of the questions in the question group have been answered by the assigned user and that all of the answers meet the requirements for the related control document. A “Non-compliant” report indicates that all of the questions in the question groups have been answered by the assigned users, but that at least one of the answers does not meet the requirements for the related control document. Corrective action may be taken to identify the question having an non-compliant answer by examining the control document for its requirements and comparing the requirements against the answers provided by the user in the question group. Administrative corrective actions, such as a change in governance policies for the company, may need to be implemented in order to allow the non-compliant answer(s) to be changed to a compliant answer. Further detail on the operation of the compliance evaluation process using the decision matrix is provided below.
It will be appreciated that system 100 provides a single point of maintenance for implementing changes to the sets of questions, the control documents and the help files. As such, updates to compliance requirements may be automatically distributed to all companies using the service for distribution to each company's affected personnel, as identified through each company's organisational chart stored in the database associated with system 100. It is preferable that maintenance of the documents be provided by qualified personnel, such as lawyers familiar with compliance requirements for a given regulatory body.
System 100 also automatically archives all system reports including audit report 260. Typically, archives are generated two weeks after the end of each quarter for each company.
To provide security, system 100 preferably utilises secure socket layer (SSL) connectivity interfaces and encrypts the data transferred between users and system 100. Firewalls and intrusion detection system are provided to detect viruses and unauthorised access attempts to system 100.
System 100 is a computer having typical elements thereon, including a processor (not shown), memory (not shown), secondary storage (not shown) and input/output devices (not shown). Software operating on system 100 provides the functional control elements to control operation thereof. In particular presentation module 302 accesses a series of templates to populate and generate the various screens produced by system 100. Application module 304 provides the main information processing and report generation modules for system 100. Application module 304 includes web channel logic servlet 306, process logic module 308, function logic module 310, web presentation module 312, file server 314 and database server 316. Elements in system 100 have a control layer utilising using Java Servlets, JavaBeans and ResourceBundles that adhere to a modified Model-View-Controller (MVC) design.
Operation of system 100 is illustrated using an example of processing of information provided by a company. As noted before, initially, a company accesses system 100 and identifies a super user, typically the CEO. The CEO, or his agent, is responsible for populating organisation template 204 and profile template 208. The information is stored in database server 316 as records.
Database server 316 accesses and maintains a database containing a series of records relating to the control documents relevant to the exchange in which the company is listed. As such, there are a series of records relating to the series of control documents, a series of records relating to the questionnaires associated with the control documents and a series of records related to the questions associated with the control records. When the users provide answers to the questions, the answers are processed by process logic module 308 against requirements dictated by the control documents. While the control documents present the text of the regulatory requirements, mapping of those requirements into computer code is provided in the compliance evaluation process which is part of processing logic module 308. The compliance evaluation process considers all possible answers from the questions and generates all possible compliance and non-compliance outcomes based on the answers provided following the Boolean logic described earlier. As such, each iterative submission of answers (on a web-page by web-page and user-by-user basis) are provided to the system and the decision matrix.
When the super user completes organisation template 204, system 100 creates a record for each individual noting his title, name and email address. In system 100, the title of the person provides a predefined association to a series of question groups. For example, the CFO is associated with questions relating to financial matters. As such, an appropriate query can be generated by system 100 to access all relevant question groups for a person having a specific job title. In system 100, the super user can amend the list of questions associated with a person having a given title and can further build custom associations to questions for a person having a different title. For system 100, the identity of the user and the related company are the keys which provide links to identify the appropriate question groups to the user.
The control document also defines deadlines for reporting activities by the company. System 100 tracks deadlines based on the fiscal year end information (provided in profile template 208,
Each record contains data relating to its associated element in the group. For example, a question record contains a question ID # and a default answer. Each record may also have a link to another record. When a link is to another record of in the same group (i.e., question group, control group or user group), the link defines a hierarchical structure between the records. Records also define data associated with each level of hierarchy. Generally, a link is established between two records by having each record contain a common field therein. Links are represented in
Records in one group may also be linked to records in another group, e.g. a link may be provided from a record in a question group to a record in a control group. Such a link provides a mechanism for associating information in one group to another group. For example, a question record related to a specific question is linked to a control document record related to the control document associated with the question. The link establishes a relationship in the database which reflects the relationship existing between the question and the control document.
Specifically, control document records 404 are structured as follows. Each control 10 document 222 is associated with a set of control document records 404. For the purposes of illustration, Audit Control Document 222 is abstracted to it represented control document records 404. At the head of the set of control document records 404 is a control document master record 408, relating to the master level 224 (
Also for each set of control document records 404, each “master” record therein may be associated with one or more corresponding data records. The data in the record contains information relating to the datum in the control document at that hierarchy level. As such, control master record 408 is associated with one control data record 418; each section master record 410 is associated with one or more section data records 420; each subsection master record 412 is associated with one or more subsection data records 422; each paragraph master record 414 is associated with one or more paragraph data record 424; and each point master 10 record 416 is associated with one or more point data records 426. Each data record typically has several fields located therein. For example, control data record 418 has several fields therein including: ID field 418A; name field 418B; and doc# field 418C.
Similarly, each questionnaire provided by system 100 has a set of question records 402 related to it. Each set of question records 402 is organised into a hierarchical data structure wherein questionnaire master record 428 is at the head. It is linked to one or more question group master records 430. Each question group master record is linked to one or more questions 432. For each “master” record, there is a link to one or more “data” records. Questionnaire master record 428 is linked to one or more questionnaire data records 434; and each question group master record 430 is linked to one or more question group data records 436. As with other records, each question record 402 typically has several fields located therein. For example, questionnaire data record 434 has several fields therein including: ID field 434A; name field 434B; and doc# field 434C.
In operation of system 100, each question group provided to a user will have an associated question group master record 428 and question group data record 434 associated with it. Further each question in each question group 436 will have a question data record 432 associated with it. Each question data record 432 has the following fields: question ID field 432A; question group ID field 432B; question # field 432C; question data field 432D; and a question default answer field 432E, which contains the expected correct answer for the question.
Each user is associated with a set of user group records 406. At the head of each set of user group records 406 is a user record 438. Fields of each user record 438 include: user ID field 438A; user name field 438B; company ID field 438C and password field 438D. Each user 10 record 438 is associated with one or more company records 440 to provide a link between a user and his company. Fields of each company record 438 include: company ID field 440A; company name field 440B; and company symbol field 440C. Each user record 438 is also associated with one or more user set-up records 442 and one or more authorisation records 444. Each company record 440 is associated with one or more company set-up document records 446. Further each company set-up document record 446 is associated with one or more company set-up records 448 and each company set-up record 448 may be linked to one or more organisation records 450. Organisation records 450 reflect associations between titles of positions in a company and default question groups assigned to users having those titles per information provided in organisation template 204 (
System 100 can identify a set of questions assigned to specific users by exploiting links between question records 402 and control document records 404 and between control document records 404 and user records 406. Specifically, question records 402 are linked to control document records 404 via fields in question group records 430 and subsection master record 412. Each record has a subsection ID field: subsection ID field 430A in question group record 430, subsection ID field 412A in subsection master record 412. As such, an appropriate SQL query can be made against all question group records 430 and all subsection master group records 412 on fields 430A and 412A to identify all question groups having a connection to a particular control document, based on the contents of fields 430A and 412A. Next, user records 406 are linked to control document records 404 via fields in company setup document records 446 and control document master record 408. Each record has a Control Document ID field: CDoc ID field 446A in company setup document record 446; CDoc ID field 408A in control document master record 408. As such, an appropriate SQL query can be made against all company setup master records 440 and all control document master records 408 on fields 446A and 408A to identify all companies having a connection to a particular control document, based on the contents of fields 440A and 408A. Further, a three way link can be made between control document records 404, user records 406 and question records 402 using appropriate SQL queries which utilise the above-mentioned common fields. As such, using the above described data structure, system 100 can track a series of companies having different company types on different stock exchanges, a series of control documents for various listings and a series of questions for each of the control document in the database. Using the relationships amongst the records system 100 can identify: specific companies on specific exchanges, control documents for specific audit questions for specific exchanges and questions related to those specific control documents. As such, a user at a specific company can be linked to a specific control document and a specific question from all records in the database. It will be appreciated that other data structures and linkages amongst records containing information about companies, questions and requirements may be provided to accomplish a similar task.
Aspects of operation of system 100 are further illustrated with the following example wherein a CFO at Company X, which is listed on the TSE has been assigned to answer Audit Questions by the CEO.
Therein, the CFO accesses the web-site of system 100 from his office and signs on through login screen 200 (
Next, the CEO accesses system 100 from his office through login screen 200 and actively reviews the status screen of reports generated by system 100 for Company X. In the report screen, system 100 allows the CEO to choose which report he wishes to have generated, either: an organisational compliance report, an internal compliance report or an audit compliance report. The CEO selects the audit compliance report.
Thereafter, system 100 is initiated to evaluate the compliance of Company X to the requirements of the Audit Report, based on the information in the database in database server 316 at that time. As the database includes records of all companies and all users of all companies whom have access to system 100, system 100 access the following information therein about Company X and its users: the company ID, the user IDs and the Company type. Requesting an Audit Compliance Report also generates a cookie for system 100, identifying the type of report being requested. As noted earlier, the user and company information are keys 10 which are used to identify the appropriate control documents and question groups for the company and the user. As several companies in several jurisdictions may be using system 100 contemporaneously, there may be multiple control documents covering audit controls for different jurisdictions. From the information relating to the company, the user and the report, system 100 derives the following information from records in the database by providing appropriate SQL queries against the known structures of the records in the database:
From the queries, an answer data structure is created which contains the following entries gathered from all entries in the database meeting the above criteria:
Next, to determine generate a compliance report, a compliance evaluation process in system 100 then evaluates the entries in the answer data structure against the following criteria:
If necessary, the evaluation is repeated for all questions of assigned to that user. If compliance to another larger issue requires additional answers from other question groups (whether or not from the same user), then appropriate nested extractions from the database may be accomplished and subsequent evaluations made.
Using the results of the evaluation, a summary of all governance reports is generated by system 100 and is provided in a series of reports, such as exemplary Compliance Governance Report 244. As answer data structure contains information relating to the control document, question group and user, report 244 produces for any question group, the report provides a row of data containing an indication of a question group, its compliance status (Pending Completion, Pending Allocation, Compliant, Non-compliant), the user assigned to question group, the related questionnaire and the related control document. The indications are provided as html links. As such, if a report is “Non-compliant”, the CEO can access the related control document through its html link to view the associated control document 222. The CEO may also send an email to the user to initiate remedial action for the non-compliant report.
Next, if the CEO wishes to view up-coming calendar event, he returns to the main menu and selects the “calendar” option. As noted before, calendar screen 256 (in
Another feature of system 100 provides the CEO with a screen where he can review the current status of all reports. When the status screen is accessed, system 100 uses a SQL query to generate a data structure based on the company name to find all users associated with the company and all the question groups related to the company. From the entries in the resultant data structure, system 100 generates a screen indicating the question group, its related questionnaire and the status the answers in the question group (e.g. whether the question group has been assigned to a user or completed by a user).
It will be appreciated that using the database, appropriate links amongst users, question groups, help files, control documents, answers and deadlines associated with companies may be generated by providing appropriate queries to the database. Once the required set of records is extracted from the database, the reports can be provided as screen reports to the super user and the users.
It will be appreciated that in other embodiments, other relationships amongst question groups, answers and control documents can be provided. In one exemplary other relationship, the logic requirements contained in the control documents may be hardcoded into a processing module in the other embodiment.
It is noted that those skilled in the art will appreciate that various modifications of detail may be made to the present embodiment, all of which would come within the scope of the invention.
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|Cooperative Classification||G06Q40/00, G06Q10/10|
|European Classification||G06Q10/10, G06Q40/00|