July 22, 2020 | Mark Paradies

Legal Reasons to Have the Best Root Cause Analysis

Judges gavel & lady justice

Corporate Compliance and Root Cause Analysis

You never want to find your company in front of a judge being sentenced over an environmental or safety crime. But if you do, you should understand that your corporate compliance program will be under scrutiny.

Here is what the DOJ has to say about corporate compliance programs and sentencing for corporate crimes:

The Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations require prosecutors to assess “the adequacy and effectiveness of the corporation’s compliance program at the time of the offense, as well as at the time of a charging decision.” JM 9-28.300. Due to the backward- looking nature of the first inquiry, one of the most difficult questions prosecutors must answer in evaluating a compliance program following misconduct is whether the program was working effectively at the time of the offense, especially where the misconduct was not immediately detected.

U.S. Department of Justice Guidelines

The DOJ guidelines for federal prosecutors says:

To determine whether a company’s compliance program is working effectively at the time of a charging decision or resolution, prosecutors should consider whether the program evolved over time to address existing and changing compliance risks. Prosecutors should also consider whether the company undertook an adequate and honest root cause analysis to understand both what contributed to the misconduct and the degree of remediation needed to prevent similar events in the future.

The DOJ guidelines say that the company should document the company’s response to a compliance issue including discipline taken or remediation (corrective actions). The guidance specifically says:

Have the company’s investigations been used to identify root causes, system vulnerabilities, and accountability lapses, including among supervisory managers and senior executives? What has been the process for responding to investigative findings? How high up in the company do investigative findings go?

DOJ says:

Finally, a hallmark of a compliance program that is working effectively in practice is the extent to which a company is able to conduct a thoughtful root cause analysis of misconduct and timely and appropriately remediate to address the root causes.

These two guidelines imply that your root cause analysis system should identify Management System root causes and have SMARTER corrective actions.

Importance of Compliance

Your corporate counsel can explain the importance of your compliance program IF you get in regulatory trouble. But from the brief explanation above, you need to know about advanced root cause analysis and you need to have the best root cause analysis program implemented to reduce your potential liability under the sentencing guidelines.

But there is an even MORE IMPORTANT reason to have the best root cause analysis as part of your compliance program. That reason is that implementing outstanding root cause analysis can help you prevent major accidents (compliance issues) by analyzing and fixing precursor incidents to prevent major breaches of compliance.

Learn More About Advanced RCA and Compliance

First, to learn more about TapRooT® advanced root cause analysis, you should attend TapRooT® Training. Here is a link to the course descriptions:


And here is a link to the upcoming public course schedule:


What about further learning on compliance and root cause analysis? We have you covered there too! The 2021 Global TapRooT® Summit has a new track:

Compliance Best Practices Track

Topics in the Compliance Best Practice Track include:

  • Accident or Gross Neglance: Lessoned Learned from EPA Criminal Investigator
  • Compliance Causal Factors
  • ISO 45001: 1) Self-Audit of Your ISO 45001 Implementation 2) Performing an ISO 45001 Gap Analysis 3) ISO 45001 Key Elements
  • Use TapRooT® to Keep You Company Out of Court
  • How Regulators Can Become Better Investigators (Staying away from bias)
  • Admiral Rickover and Conservative Decision Making
  • Defeating the Blame Culture: 1) How Management Learned Not To Blame 2) Fight Against Blame 3) How a Gold Mine Reduced Blame

Those are some interesting and important compliance topics.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the 2021 Global TapRooT® Summit.

Root Cause Analysis, Summit
Show Comments

One Reply to “Legal Reasons to Have the Best Root Cause Analysis”

  • Nick Gutermuth says:

    I totally agree!. I might add, in addition to a “World Class” EHS System, in todays environment a business/company must have a indepth Risk Assessment and corrective Action process. Remember a “Process” is on-going, a “Program” generally has a beginning and end.
    That’s my two cents from the EHS far Side.
    PS…..Terrific article…..more small businesses should know and understand the Management System Process

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