In July 2020 Holly Shick was hired by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) as its first Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer. After nearly two years in this position, Holly was interviewed for this blog to discuss her experience at the USOPC.
David Dodge: You have formerly served as a federal prosecutor for eight years and as a senior compliance officer at a multinational financial services company. What was it about your previous work that led you to the USOPC?
Holly Shick: I’ve always been interested in working in the sports world, and when I learned about this opportunity, I thought it was a great way to combine what I learned at the financial institution, i.e., building a compliance program, with my experience as a prosecutor conducting investigations.
DD: It has been reported that you have been interested in Team USA since an early age. Can you tell us about that?
HS: Absolutely. My earliest memories of watching Team USA were the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. I remember watching Muhammad Ali light the Olympic torch and the excitement of watching the women’s gymnastics team win the team gold medal. In the summer of 2012, I had a lot of vacation time to burn so I took off a full week of work so I could watch the London Games with a friend who was home with a newborn. Although not a Team USA moment, watching Mo Farah win the 5K and 10K in his home country was really amazing.
DD: Your hiring by the USOPC coincided with the Committee’s introduction of its new National Governing Body (NGB) audit standards (renamed NGB Compliance Standards). Please tell us about your role in assuring that the NGBs are meeting these standards.
HS: Fortunately, the Compliance Standards and the accompanying Implementation Guide were completed just before I arrived, so my job was to build an audit team to audit NGBs against the requirements in the Implementation Guide. The main role of me and my team in ensuring that NGBs meet the Compliance Standards and requirements in the Implementation Guide is to educate NGBs, share best practices, answer questions, and look for areas where NGBs are struggling so we can determine how to best help them succeed.
DD: Some of the 47 NGBs have large staffs and formal governance structures while others are smaller with less formal operations. What are some of the challenges working with each of these groups?
HS: The varying sizes of NGBs is indeed challenging. To help smaller NGBs, we are developing a program that smaller NGBs can take advantage of if they wish to do so. That program will offer support to NGBs for audit preparation and continuous monitoring to ensure those NGBs are making updates to their governing documents consistent with updates to the law and our bylaws, among other things.
DD: You are responsible for ensuring USOPC compliance programs are effective and efficient in identifying and preventing deficiencies and upholding the organization’s commitment to respond more quickly and decisively when issues occur. Please tell us a little more about that.
HS: One of the most important things the team has done is get to know our colleagues in other departments and the work they do which allows us to identify areas of improvement. These relationships also allow us to work with those colleagues to implement changes where those changes will help them identify risk, thereby mitigating risk to our organization.
DD: Holly, to whom do you report?
HS: I report to our General Counsel/Chief Operating Officer, and I also have regular one-on-one meetings with the CEO.
DD: When you are involved in conducting an ethics and compliance risk assessment for the USOPC, what is the process for doing that and who is involved?
HS: The process for conducting our risk assessment is the same for most risk assessments, which is to speak with each department head and/or their direct reports who oversee a specific function within that department to better understand their day-to-day work and the issues they view as risks to the organization. Following those conversations, we determine the risks that should be addressed more immediately and develop a plan to address them. So, in short many people within the organization are involved at some point, and we could not conduct a risk assessment without them.
DD: It’s no secret that the USOPC and several of the NGBs have had a number of well-publicized scandals, especially during recent years. How have these scandals impacted your plans to improve the ethics and compliance programs for the USOPC and the NGBs?
HS: We don’t want to focus on only being reactive – we also want to be proactive. To that end, we have regular meetings to review NGB compliance, we conduct quarterly training and education sessions for NGBs, and we launched an Integrity Platform last fall, which allows people to report concerns anonymously or confidentially.
DD: Holly, thank you so much for sharing your time with us. Wishing you continued success in all your endeavors.