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SPRING CONFERENCE: Compliance Pays

Panelists at the InformationWeek Spring Conference discussed the headaches, efforts, and payoffs involved with meeting compliance regulations.
Compliance was a great topic to handle just before lunch during the first full day of InformationWeek's Spring Conference: No one's attention span was bound to cave in to any hunger pangs.

Before the questions from the audience were done, someone suggested that businesses should've regulated themselves all along and they're just starting to pay for getting away with bad deeds for a long time. The panel, consisting of InformationWeek senior editor at large John Foley; Bill Cook, a business-continuity and security consultant at Wildman Harrold; Julia Segars, VP and CIO at electric utility Alabama Power and CIO at Southern Co. Services; and Jane Niederberger, CIO at health-care insurer Anthem Inc., made no apologies for business.

They did describe the necessity, the hardship, the efforts, and the payoffs. Cook explained the inevitability of lawsuits crippling companies with hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs if they can't prove due diligence for patient privacy and accurate financial statements.

Segars read off a list of regulations, including the Public Utility Holding Company Act and the Clean Air Act, that demonstrated how long Alabama Power had dealt with compliance as a member of a regulated industry. "We [put] security and firewalls in place recently because politics didn't allow it any sooner," she said.

Niederberger said regulations ultimately are helping Anthem better serve members and reduce costs in a market that prevents the company from raising premiums. "Paper claims cost us $2.50 to process, and electronic claims cost us 20 to 25 cents," she says. "We avoided $34 million in regulatory costs just getting rid of nonstrategic technology."

Though the panel didn't apologize for business, Segars was the first one to answer the bad deeds question. "I know a lot of good corporate citizens who always complied and are suffering now," she said. "But we always have a sleaze factor in business and every other area of our lives."

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