Do Consumers Care About Corporate Compliance? New Research Says Yes

July 26, 2023
42:11 minutes
Hui Chen , Zachary N. Coseglia ,
Todd Haugh
Suneal Bedi

On this episode of There Has to Be a Better Way?, co-hosts Zach Coseglia and Hui Chen speak with researchers at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business about the value of corporate compliance programs. Compliance can be (inaccurately) perceived as a “cost center” or an “enabling function,” supporting rather than contributing to product development and business strategy. But business law and ethics professors Todd Haugh and Suneal Bedi tested this idea by assessing the role of compliance in value creation. They discuss findings from their recent study, which explores how consumers value compliance—as a unique product feature—using a statistical technique called conjoint analysis.


Zach Coseglia: Welcome back to the Better Way? podcast, brought to you by R&G Insights Lab. This is a curiosity podcast tor those who find themselves asking, “There has to be a better way, right?” There just has to be. I’m Zach Coseglia, the co-founder of R&G Insights Lab, and I’m here, as always, with my friend, colleague and collaborator, Hui Chen. Hi, Hui.

Hui Chen: Hi, Zach. Hi, everyone. We are quite excited today. We’re going to be talking to two very bright people about some research they have done in the compliance area that’s relating to how we prove compliance programs’ values. That’s a big question I know is on almost everyone’s mind, so we’re very excited to hear about this from professors Todd Haugh and Suneal Bedi.

Zach Coseglia: Thanks so much for coming. Todd, why don’t we start with you. Who are you, Todd?

Todd Haugh: I’m an associate professor of business law and ethics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. I came to Kelley from two different stints teaching law students in Chicago. Prior to my teaching career, I was a criminal defense attorney. I practiced white collar criminal defense for give or take a decade in and around Chicago where I represented all kinds of white collar offenders, everyone from CEOs to secretaries, anyone that had gotten involved in the criminal justice system with economic crime, and that got me interested very much in the subjects about ethical decision-making, why good people do bad things—and the front lines of that, as you all know very well, to me at least, is corporate compliance.

Zach Coseglia: Terrific. Thanks, Todd. Suneal, this is a coming home of sorts.

Suneal Bedi: It is. I’m an assistant professor of business law and ethics in the same department as Todd, in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. I came to Indiana University from the Wharton School where I did my Ph.D. in marketing, as well as a Ph.D. in business ethics. Before that—as you mentioned, Zach, this is a little bit of a homecoming—I practiced corporate law at Ropes & Gray and was there for two years. I loved it, insofar as I loved the firm. Practicing law wasn’t for me, and so, I decided academia was where my passion lies, and that brought me to Indiana University.

Todd Haugh: Just a little bit more background. Our department is one of very few in the country that are essentially a group of attorneys and folks that are interested in law and ethics that are housed in a business school. Wharton, which Suneal just mentioned, is the other model for that. We happen to be, I think, the largest now. We have, give or take, roughly 25 professors here—about half of them are on the tenure track, actively doing research. Everybody has a J.D.—some have Ph.D.s and J.D./MBAs. We teach literally thousands of students about business ethics, ethical decision-making and certainly topics all in and around related to business law. So, it’s a really unique place, and it gives us a unique place to sit between law, ethics, compliance and decision-making.

Hui Chen: Todd, full disclosure to our audience—we’ve known each other for probably five, six years at least. We first met in an academic conference in Michigan. Todd is one of those people whom I just always love talking to, because whenever I talk to him, it stimulates my brain. When he told me about his recent publication out of this research that he did with Suneal, it really fascinated me. So, tell us about this research: How you got started, what drove you to it, and what it is.

Todd Haugh: Thanks, Hui. I should say, before I start, the mutual admiration society goes both ways here, because I have learned so much from you. As you know, you’ve been the inspiration of a paper or two probably, just our discussions. I also am certainly incredibly impressed with what you all are doing at Ropes & Gray. I think it’s amazing what Zach’s put together there.

Let me give you a little background of how this paper came up. Like a lot of good things that come up in academia, this was one of those hallway conversations, I think, Suneal and I were chit-chatting. He knows about my work in compliance. I certainly know about his empirical work related to brands and intellectual property, and a whole bunch of stuff that’s really fascinating. He brings these marketing methodologies oftentimes to his work in the law related to those subjects. And so, we were chit-chatting about, “This is what’s going on in compliance.” One of the big problems that compliance has had for a long time is really understanding how to value it. We know that it’s important—everyone knows that compliance is important—but it seems narrow how we’ve looked at it. We only look at it through this lens, or we primarily look at it through this lens of, “How do we avoid liability?” That’s been really the main way that most people have looked at compliance for a long time, and that has a lot of limitations to it. I was lamenting that fact with Suneal, and I was saying, “There’s also this movement that says we can make the business case for compliance, but the problem is, those methods haven’t seemed to be really as strong as they could be. I wish there was a Better Way,” if you will, “to figure out what the value of compliance is.” And Suneal immediately said, “Wait a minute. Marketers do this type of thing all the time. There’re lots of ways we can look at valuing a thing—we can figure out the elements, we can actually alter those elements, and then we can go from there.” It was the light bulb moment when we said, “We should work on this together, and we can hopefully say something interesting and new, both on the theoretical side on how to look at this, the valuing compliance, but also something that we think might be practical and important for companies as they’re thinking about all these same problems as well.”

Zach Coseglia: When you talk about “valuing compliance,” are we talking about actually measuring whether or not compliant organizations are more likely to be successful businesses? Is that what we’re talking about? Is that the analysis that you endeavored to explore?

Suneal Bedi: Todd started with this question: “Is there a way we can show that having a compliance program actually helps with ethical behavior (it helps decrease potential lawsuits)?” I said, “Maybe, but that’s certainly not what I do.” What I look at and what I care about is consumers. And Todd said, “Do you think consumers care about compliance? And what is the value of compliance to consumers? If there is a value to compliance for consumers, can that value then be attached back onto the business?” That’s where I said, “I’m pretty sure we can show this.” When we say the “value of corporate compliance,” in this context, what we’re talking about is the value of compliance to consumers. If there’s value to consumers of buying a product, patronizing a company that has a good compliance program, then we can tie that to increases in price. We can tie that to brand loyalty. We can tie that to increases in demand. These are all ways we can have a metric of value and tie compliance to this underlying, bottom-line value, and so, that’s how we thought about it in the paper.

Zach Coseglia: So, what did you do? How did you actually go about measuring this?

Suneal Bedi: The way we thought about it, at least the way that I pitched it, was “Can we show that when consumers buy products, they’re actually willing to pay more for the exact same product if it comes from a company that has a robust compliance program versus a company that doesn’t have a robust compliance program?” If we could show that empirically in a rigorous manner, we think that’s a pretty good argument that compliance has value, that that is the value, in some ways the amount that consumers are willing to pay more for that product. When we discussed this, I realized that there is a method that does this exact thing in marketing. It’s called the conjoint analysis, and basically, it’s quite simple. All this method does is it allows us to put, more or less, a dollar value on given aspects or given features of a product. For example, if you’re choosing a car, how much are you willing to pay for a manual car over an automatic? What conjoint analysis does is allow us to basically apportion out the price that someone would pay for a car, maybe it’s $30,000, and say, “What portion of that $30,000 goes to the manual versus the automatic transmission?” We just apply that methodology in this context and include compliance as a type of feature of a product, and we showed that people are willing to pay more for a product that comes from a company that has a compliance program in comparison to one that doesn’t.

Zach Coseglia: You talk about a compliance program being motivated by a limitation of liability, or you mention a compliance program potentially being built as a result of an insurance policy mindset, but then, you also have companies where the compliance program is built because it’s part of the DNA of the company—it’s deeply ingrained in an authentic culture that they’ve built. The last one to me feels more like the kind of thing that I’d pay a premium for, but in your research, does it matter what’s motivating the compliance program?

Todd Haugh: The answer is no, not the way that we set up this particular study. What we did was, you present the participants in the study with a description of the compliance program, and it’s just that really—it’s just a description of the elements or the pieces. Of course, we have to do it in a way that is easy enough for them to understand, so you have to simplify in some ways. It doesn’t get to motivation—it really just says, “This is what the program is,” in a way that they can understand it. Then, that’s it—that becomes a feature of the product essentially that we are presenting them with in these choices. So, Zach, you’re absolutely right—it’s more like an on-off switch as opposed to one dialing a gradient like a lightbulb going up or down. However, it still has incredible value to us, and, I think, also to researchers and policymakers and all kinds of things because we think we’re the first to really link consumer choices to compliance.

Suneal Bedi: In terms of marketing, there’s a lot of research that shows that CSR, which is not the same as compliance for sure, but CSR developments that are organic, CSR developments that seem very tied to the nature or to the genome of the company, are actually accepted a lot more by consumers than ones that feel artificial. And so, what you raise is actually a really nice follow-up study. Todd, let’s take some notes on this—maybe we can start finding iterations and more nuance in how compliance is incepted in a company. What I suspect is, the more it’s part of the company, the more it’s perceived as being part of the genome of a company, even more people are going to be excited about buying product that’s associated with it.

Zach Coseglia: Just to define the acronyms for folks, when you say “CSR,” you’re referring to “corporate social responsibility.” In fact, when you talk about a company that actually views compliance as part of its culture, deeply ingrained in its DNA, there’s direct overlap between that concept and the corporate social responsibility strategy. Hui, what’s on your mind?

Hui Chen: I’ve been thinking, and this is the thought that I had when Todd first told me about the paper: My immediate thought was, “But there are many types of compliance programs and many types of products and services that consumers come into direct purchasing decisions with.” So, how did you set it up? How do you map these different kinds of compliance programs with different types of products and services?

Suneal Bedi: I’ll let Todd speak to the choices about compliance, and I’ll speak to the choices about products. We went back and forth—I had some ideas about products, I think Todd had some other ideas about products, and we came to an agreement on three products. The three products were a cell phone, credit cards and a dining table. You might say, “That’s random.” It’s true, it is, but here’s the thought process behind it: Partly with this method called conjoint analysis, you want products that have been studied in the past. Cell phones are a product that many marketers have used to iterate conjoint analysis, and given that that’s a product many papers use, I figured, the features people care about and how we define those features would be very easy to do, and we’d be able to point to a nice robust literature there. In addition, we wanted some technological product, because you can imagine that certain compliance programs are more easily mapped onto technological products, and that’s cell phones. Then, we wanted something outside of the standard boxed good consumer product, tangible product item, and we thought about financial services. First, we thought about opening up a banking statement—that was tricky for a lot of different reasons—and we came to a credit card. I know we’re not on video, but if your listeners could see the video, what I would do is I would show you this credit card that I got recently that was advertised to me because of a new design. There was a really new color that this credit card had, which happened to be American Express, and I thought to myself, “Wow, companies are really spending a lot of money on design of these things. Let’s see if compliance actually matters more than design.” And so, that was the impetus for the credit card. Lastly, we chose dining tables. You might be thinking, “Who cares about a dining table?” We were coming right out of COVID, and I had bought a house recently, and I bought a dining table—it took 12 months to get to me, and I was very bitter about it. I said, “We’re going to choose dining tables because it’s a product people are thinking about—furniture was super hot in COVID.” And I thought it’d be in some ways a very cool, unique product that spoke to a lot of people, particularly coming out of it.

Todd Haugh: We took those three, and they have a standard set of features generally. Then, one of the features that we also needed to test, of course, was a compliance program, so we broke that up into a couple of different types. We did privacy and security, environmental health and safety, and then we did an anti-fraud and corruption program. We looked to the standard places that you might imagine for how we would describe those programs, so we started, of course, with the sentencing guidelines. Then, we looked, of course, at the evaluation of corporate compliance programs. We looked at some traditional compliance consultant type places—Deloitte, PwC, etc.—to come up with standard language about individual types of compliance programs. And so, when you push all that together and you summarize it, that then became the description of these individual programs that then we could alter and include in our set of features that we presented to our consumers.

Hui Chen: The big drum roll moment… What did you find?

Todd Haugh: We found basically three overarching findings. The first is that consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that come from a company that has a strong or effective compliance program as we’ve defined it. I tend to think about this as the tagline, “Consumers will pay more for compliance.” The second finding is that consumers value products from companies that have compliance programs more than they would other attributes of those products. For example, our consumers will value certain compliance programs over standard features that companies spend lots of money talking about and promoting, because they believe that those are important features for consumers. So, just like Suneal mentioned, people care more about compliance programs than they do about fancy designs on a credit card, it turns out. They care about a compliance program, particularly a data privacy compliance program, more than they do about the color of a cell phone, even though Apple, for example, probably spends millions and millions of dollars coming up with the perfect Pantone color and hitting some new hot trendy color for their next iteration of iPhones. Again, I think about that tagline as, “Compliance is worth more than a pretty phone or pretty feature.” The third thing is that consumers are willing to pay price premiums for compliance programs that are targeted at the products that they’re purchasing. This is one of the really interesting things that we found, that linking the compliance program tighter to the product or to the type of product itself had caused consumers to pay more as a price premium. And so, linking data privacy compliance to a technological product like a cell phone made more sense than anti-corruption and a dining table, more of a manufactured product, for example. I think about this as, linking compliance programs and products is good business.

Suneal Bedi: That’s exactly right. Some people may be asking, “Wait, but there are so many other features that we didn’t test, and so, how do you really know that privacy and cybersecurity really matters in comparison to other features you didn’t test?” This is a good criticism of any survey design—there’s always limitations on what you can do. The way Todd and I thought about this, and this goes to in some ways the second point Todd raised, is if we choose features that we think companies spend money on—R&D, advertising—if we can show that people care more about compliance than they care about these features, that’s a really nice finding. That should really provide compliance practitioners some ammo to really say, “Consumers care about what we’re doing. Even leaving aside all the other aspects of value, this set of values is important, and this means that we should be investing more dollars into robust compliance programs.”

Hui Chen: I would imagine that most compliance people would greet your findings with much enthusiasm—it’s some validation of the work that compliance departments do. I’m curious to hear what reactions you have gotten from businesspeople about your findings?

Todd Haugh: I think in some ways, compliance people have been excited about this—we’ve heard a little bit of that. I would say though, it hasn’t been overwhelming. I think people are a little resistant to old ideas dying, Hui. I’ve had some compliance folks say, “That’s interesting, but we’ve got this narrative that compliance is going to help the bottom line, and that’s all we really need. I don’t know that we need anything more than this.” That’s one piece—and that’s always going to be an issue that you all know very well—just getting people to look at problems in a different way is part of the struggle of any new study but also any kind of change. As for the businesspeople, in some ways, if we’re talking about true top-level managers—people making decisions about the whole company—they often don’t care exactly where value comes from, as long as it’s measurable and it’s real. So, if the spend is better in the compliance department than marketing spending a bunch more money on a feature that people care about less, then a manager who’s trying to really make the company go, that’s what they should do.

Suneal Bedi: When we think about conjoint analysis, it’s often used for product design. “What are the right features of the product? How should the product look? How should the product be priced?” Conjoint analysis originated in marketing departments, but it has certainly gained a lot of traction in finance scholarship and in management scholarship. Businesspeople understand conjoint analysis, and whether you’re talking about the marketer or about the engineer, they all understand that product design is important. I think what these business units don’t understand is that compliance is a part of product design—at least it can be a part of product design—and so, insofar as they (meaning the businesspeople) can start seeing compliance departments in the same way they maybe see the engineering department or the R&D department as helping to design the products, helping to allow marketers and business practitioners to communicate about the product to consumers, I hope, and this has been my experience in presenting this paper and talking about it to business practitioners, is that they’re excited about it. They’re excited that here is another aspect of product design that they can rope into these other business units, as opposed to keeping it so far away.

Zach Coseglia: I love that. I want to underscore that because I think that part of the challenge that so many of our listeners and many of us have had with the in-house compliance people or advisors to in-house compliance people is that there is a sense or a narrative within the company that compliance is a cost center. What you are finding and what you are encouraging folks to continue to explore is the idea that compliance can actually create value. That compliance can be something more than a cost center. That it can be more than an enabling function. That compliance itself can be an element of the product, which is so exciting, and I think folks should be really enthusiastic and jumping all over this. But I often find that folks don’t want compliance to be part of their product or company narrative when things go wrong, obviously. They also aren’t terribly interested in it being part of the narrative when things go right. It’s just, “Let’s avoid compliance being part of our external narrative.” In order to actually capitalize on your findings, it has to actually be more of the external discussion about the product and about the company, so talk to us a little bit about that.

Todd Haugh: First of all, Zach, I think you hit it 100% on the head. As we were considering this project, we thought, “How do we really understand the value of this thing, this compliance, in a real way?” Then, once we realize that consumers really are willing to actually pay more for it, which creates value, then how can it be used? In order to unlock that value, because it’s consumer-focused, you’re going to have to talk about compliance more—what you’re doing, how it’s tied to a product, how it is integral to your company and what you do, that’s how you’re going to get the consumer price premium gains that we have demonstrated can come from this. A good company that’s doing this in an authentic way, this is what they should be owning and talking about anyways, because it’s not fake, they’re not fibbing about anything, they’re not bluffing, they’re not puffing—this is actually what they’re doing. Assuming that’s truthful, it’s just like any other product feature, and you should get credit for that in the marketplace when you’re doing something that’s either innovative, good or revolutionary. So, it not only encourages you to talk about it, it encourages you to do it the right way, which is a beneficial cycle and circle, and I think that’s a really cool implication of the paper.

Suneal Bedi: Marketers often tell businesspeople, “Talk about the good stuff you’re doing.” Again, the response is, “If it turns out the good stuff we’re doing isn’t good and isn’t true, then we’re going to be in trouble.” It’s like, of course. But this is a way to actually hold compliance accountable. If we recognize that good compliance that’s described well, that is clearly articulated, that’s transparent, helps consumers make purchases and creates customer value or creates value to the customer, then that is a feedback loop that means that compliance better be good, and it better be working. By encouraging companies to communicate externally about this, I think (this is a hypothesis), it decreases the incidence of check-the-box compliance. Now, customers know that you’re doing this, and customers are going to hold you accountable because, if they find out it’s not real, you better believe it’s going to have problematic values.

Hui Chen: The discussion we’re having leads me to think about one of the possible reasons for the reluctance of the compliance community in embracing your findings is I know many of them struggle just to market themselves internally, so forget externally—just even getting people in their company, other stakeholders, to see their function as one of essential value to the company has been a struggle for many compliance people. Now, you’re talking about not only you have to convince the internal stakeholders to think of you that way, but they have to believe in it so much that they would actually incorporate that into their messaging to the external audience. That just seems impossible, I think, to a lot of people who are currently working in compliance. So, to those people who are somewhat reticent, and perhaps fearful about what this all means, what would you say to them?

Todd Haugh: Part of the genesis of the paper is to try to think about how do we talk about compliance in a way that business managers can really understand and internalize? We talked a little bit about the paper, about the evolution that you’re talking about in compliance, but we also talk a lot about the bottom line, whether we like it or not, that most managers and companies think about revenues—that is going to be their driving force in many respects. It’s not the only thing, for sure, but it’s really important. In order to get people to listen, you have to show that your initiative, whatever that might be, is going to be revenue positive, and the earlier you can demonstrate that, and the faster you can show that, the better for you if you want to get buy-in to that initiative. If I’m a compliance person, and I want to talk about an initiative, I need to show that it has real revenue potential, and so, I might have our paper and say, “If we do this, there’s at least evidence, there’s empirical evidence, that consumers will care about it, and they will reward us, the company, for doing this.” I think that’s a way to start that internal conversation. That’s where I would start—I would start internal with the idea that we might be able to move external. The benefit of that just generally is, I think, it gets people out of this idea of compliance being a department of no and only about liability avoidance which, as you all know, is extremely difficult to quantify.

Hui Chen: I think one of the Better Ways here that’s really accentuated throughout is the importance of ethics and compliance professionals to speak the business language, and that has been a challenge for many of them from day one and to today. If you feel like you’re not quite where you can talk about conjoint analysis comfortably, you can at least start by just hanging out more with your business colleagues. Listen to their conversations—listen to what they care about, how they talk about their work, how they talk about value in what they do, and how they talk about value to the customers that your company serves. I think the real beginning point is getting out of your office, getting out of that liability thinking, immerse yourself in the business of the company, and then you can start getting conversational, and then fluent.

Todd Haugh: I think compliance folks tend to stay in their bubble in the area that they’re most comfortable with, which is rules, regulations, trainings and things like that, and they go forward because that’s kind of a standard playbook, which I understand. However, most companies have so many talented people with incredibly vast skill sets at their disposal—any large company certainly does. You’ve got marketers, you’ve got data science people, you’ve got all kinds of people that have incredible skills, and so, you don’t have to understand it all, you’ve just got to find the right people who do. You’ve got to build a little mini team to tackle whatever problem that you’re after, and that’s really where this comes from. We saw the problem as compliance is seen a certain way, and we thought that that’s too narrow—that’s the beginning of this project. Then, it goes to, “What tools do we use in order to show that it can be seen a different way?” And that’s the collaborative aspect of this.

Hui Chen: I do want to say that that’s also the story of the Lab, that we have built a team of people with different areas of expertise to try to tackle problems, traditional problems, in nontraditional, creative ways. I will say, Suneal, I’m very excited about being introduced to you through this study because, for a long time, I have said marketing is the area where compliance really needs to learn from. What is marketing all about? My understanding is it’s trying to influence people’s behavior—that’s what the core of marketing is. Marketing has been on the forefront of using data and behavior science to do that, just that. So, I’m excited to see this collaboration between marketing and compliance, and I think there are so many more things that can be researched, talked about and can be done in this collaboration.

Zach Coseglia: It’s clear that we could continue this discussion, but now, it’s time to get to know you both a little bit better. All of our guests get asked a standard questionnaire that’s inspired by Proust, Bernard Pivot, and for those of us of a certain age, James Lipton and Inside the Actors Studio, which is very much where I get inspired for this. I’m going to go to you first, Suneal. Question number one is a choice—you get to choose which of these questions you want to answer. Either: If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be? Or: Is there a quality about yourself that you’re currently working to improve, and if so, what is it?

Suneal Bedi: I’ll take the former. I will say, I wish I could wake up tomorrow and be a good singer. I’ve been booed offstage doing karaoke numerous times, and I never want that to happen again.

Zach Coseglia: I love that. I feel that. It’s similar to one of Hui’s answers when she took the questionnaire, too, so we’re all very simpatico on that. Todd, you get to choose one of those two. Which one do you want to answer?

Todd Haugh: I’m going to choose the latter. I’m going to go a little more serious on this one, which is something I’m currently working on, and this comes from my kids. I can be incredibly hard on people. I demand a lot of myself. I tend to demand a lot of other people. Sometimes, that’s not entirely fair. I am reminded by that day to day, if you have kids, that they will set you straight in that regard when you’re being a little bit too hard on them. So, that’s what I’m working on.

Zach Coseglia: Terrific. All right, let’s go on to question number two, and this one is for you, Todd. You also get to choose one of two. Either: Who is your favorite mentor? Or: Who do you wish you could be mentored by?

Todd Haugh: I’ve been so lucky to have so many mentors in my life, incredible mentors. There are two that stand out. The first lawyer I ever really worked for, I was in high school, small-town lawyer, was a former judge, brilliant guy. The reason he was a mentor is he really showed me about the integrity of being a good attorney—kept everyone’s confidences, treated everyone with respect, and just worked really hard on people’s behalf. He was a criminal defense attorney and did a lot of other stuff in a small town, and he was an incredibly well-respected guy. That was my introduction to lawyers acting the right way, and it’s something that I haven’t forgotten. Then, the other, I had a great professor in college who was an ethics professor. He really introduced me to thinking about law and ethics in a different way. So, those two together probably set me on this path before I even really knew I was on it.

Zach Coseglia: Thanks for that, Todd. Suneal, question number three: What is the best job, paid or unpaid, that you’ve ever had?

Suneal Bedi: This is tricky because I have two stakeholders here—Ropes & Gray as well as Indiana University—so I’m going to go with the unpaid job. One of my favorite unpaid jobs is I’m an assistant coach for a D-1 women’s tennis team here in Indianapolis. It’s just so fulfilling to get out there, hit some balls, try to mentor young people, and I’m really appreciative of the opportunity that I get to do that almost every day.

Zach Coseglia: That’s amazing. All right, Todd, the next question is for you, and it’s question number four: What is your favorite thing to do?

Todd Haugh: That’s easy—I do love to be on the water. Sailing, I do love it. It doesn’t make any sense—I grew up in the middle of a cornfield in rural northern Illinois, but I got the opportunity to do some sailing with friends in college. That is where the smile on my face is the biggest.

Hui Chen: The next question is for Suneal: What is your favorite place?

Suneal Bedi: For me, it’s Tokyo, Japan. It’s by far my favorite city in the world. I think it has the best combination of fashion, food and culture that I’ve ever seen. If I could speak Japanese, I wouldn’t be here—I would be hanging out in Japan for sure.

Hui Chen: That’s another ability that you would want to gain. So, you’ve got to choose: If you have to gain one, is it speaking Japanese or singing?

Suneal Bedi: Karaoke is really big in Japan, so I think they go together.

Hui Chen: This is true. Next question is for Todd: What makes you proud?

Todd Haugh: This is easy—as a parent, hearing someone else compliment your child on being a good person. Not about something they did, some grade or sports accolade, but being a good person, that makes you proud every time.

Hui Chen: That’s awesome. Now, we go from the profound to the mundane. Suneal, what email sign-off do you use most frequently?

Suneal Bedi: It used to be “cheers,” and then someone told me I’m not from England, and so, I have now moved to “best.” “Best” is, I’ve found to be, uncontroversial to say the least.

Hui Chen: “Best” is also what I use—seems straightforward enough.

Todd Haugh: Times three on that. That’s what I use as well, so it must be okay.

Hui Chen: There we go. Todd, what trend in your field is most overrated?

Todd Haugh: There are a lot of trends that are overrated. Benchmarking has been one of the trends that I have criticized in the past. I understand the compulsion, but I think it limits innovative thinking a lot of times and gets us all following the same flack, which isn’t necessarily good. I think tone at the top is one of those things that’s overrated. Not that it’s not important—it’s incredibly important—but it’s also myopic and misses focus. I think rules and massive codes of conduct, those are also generally overrated—I think we’re moving away from that. If we want to do things right, you’ve got to keep it simple and straightforward, and you’ve got to be thinking about decision points. Where is the point of decision, and how can you influence that? And taking a really legalistic overbroad approach is probably not best for that.

Hui Chen: I think if I were to add one that I wish I had said it’s training as a fix to everything.

Zach Coseglia: Or the way that training is currently done, as a fix to anything.

Todd Haugh: We could also add: Lawyers being the most sought after people on a compliance team. Not that they aren’t important, but I think in some ways, the Lab, the way it’s modeling itself in its team approach, I think, is how compliance should be thinking about, “Let’s get a bevy of skills in there, not just ones that are based in legal training.”

Hui Chen: Amen to that. Last question to Suneal: What word would you use to describe your day so far?

Suneal Bedi: I would say, my day has been incredibly fun so far, particularly because of the last hour. Anytime I get to hang out with my colleague and obviously very close friend, Todd, is awesome. And being able to connect with you two and have a homecoming to Ropes & Gray is really fascinating and just super exciting for me. So, a great, fun day so far.

Zach Coseglia: Terrific. Thank you so much, Suneal. Todd, any final words for our listeners?

Todd Haugh: Listen to the podcast. Listen to these people. They know what they’re talking about. Stay tuned for the collaborations that are going to come out of more of the type of work that Suneal and I are doing—more work that sits at the intersection of law, behavioral science and compliance. We’ve got all kinds of things cooking, so stay tuned and keep your mind open.

Zach Coseglia: Thanks, Todd. Suneal, you get the final word.

Suneal Bedi: Thank you so much for having me and Todd on the podcast—we’re really appreciative of it. You guys are doing great stuff.

Zach Coseglia:Thank you guys so much—this has been great. Thank you all for tuning in to the Better Way? podcast and exploring all of these Better Ways with us. For more information about this or anything else that’s happening with R&G Insights Lab, please visit our website at You can also subscribe to this series wherever you regularly listen to podcasts, including on Apple, Google, and Spotify. And, if you have thoughts about what we talked about today, the work the Lab does, or just have ideas for Better Ways we should explore, please don’t hesitate to reach out—we’d love to hear from you. Thanks again for listening.


Zachary N. Coseglia
Managing Principal and Head of Innovation of R&G Insights Lab
See Bio

Todd Haugh
Todd Haugh
Associate Professor of Business Law and Ethics, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
Suneal Bedi
Suneal Bedi
Associate Professor of Business Law and Ethics, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University