Financial writers and compliance departments are often at odds. But the two sides must learn to get along. Nobody wins if flat writing turns off prospective clients. Or if marketers create unrealistic expectations in the minds of current or prospective clients.
“Weasel words” help writers and compliance officers coexist. Writers can often defuse compliance officers’ anxieties about guarantees by using words and phrases such as “may,” “we believe,” and “seek to.”
Disclosures are another tool. However, long disclosures are daunting. Sometimes I’d rather delete a topic than introduce a scary disclosure. For example, I’d talk about an investment strategy without referring to the mutual fund using the strategy.
Capitulation is the path taken by some. I don’t recommend that writers always cave in to compliance officers. Caving in is easy, but it doesn’t serve your material well. Sometimes compliance officers’ suggestions are based on their editorial preferences rather than a perception of legal or regulatory risk. When you point this out, compliance professionals are often open to negotiation.
Sometimes you can call in back-up. It’s helpful if a senior person in your organization backs you up by saying, “Our business is willing to take the risk of not making changes.” I’ve also achieved good results by presenting examples of similar companies with sterling reputations using the language questioned by my compliance officer.
I’m curious to learn more about how other writers–and compliance professionals–cope. Please answer the poll asking, “What’s your favorite way to make your financial writing acceptable to compliance?” You’ll find the poll in the right-hand column of my blog.
Here are your potential answers:
- Add disclosures
- Cave in to every request by compliance
- Insert “may” in sentences challenged by compliance
- Insert “we believe” at the beginning of sentences challenged by compliance
- Negotiate the most important points, cave in on the rest
- Say your business is willing to accept the risks of publishing without changes
- [Your own answer]