Why every design firm needs an FBI special agent

It is important to emphasize and teach compliance to workers in the AEC industry in order to be prepared to conduct lawful business in today's era.


According to Paul Moskal, CannonDesign's director of compliance, there is no typical day in the FBI. Throughout his 30-year career with the bureau, he worked on matters ranging from bank robberies and cyber terrorism to issues of foreign counterintelligence -"spy stuff" in the truest sense.

Paul Moskal is proudly leading the discussion about compliance in the AEC industry. Courtesy: CannonDesign. He worked long-term undercover assignments as a marathoner, a hedge fund operator, and an organized crime lawyer allegedly using drug money to pay bribes and develop luxury hotels and golf courses. He supervised kidnapping and extortion squads, worked in the National Press Office, and tracked down spies from foreign governments. He traveled the world, working stints in London, Rome, Port-au-Prince and Toronto, among other cities.

Paul's interest in the FBI stretches back to his childhood. For as long as he can remember, he had big plans to become the next Sherlock Holmes - solving mysteries and fighting crime, pipe in hand. This fantasy followed him into college where he earned degrees in political science and English, and eventually a doctorate of law. "I remember reading, at the time, that more than 400 members of Congress were attorneys," said Paul. "That statistic made an impression on me, and I remember thinking that if I wanted to help people, law school seemed like a great place to start."

Three months after college, Paul joined the FBI, pledging to commit his career to protecting the public and upholding the Constitution of the United States. He started as a special agent and worked his way up to Chief Division Counsel - leading younger agents, directing investigative programs, and overseeing every significant case that walked through the doors.

In 2014, Paul made the transition into the private sector, assuming the role of director of compliance at CannonDesign - which, at the time, was a fairly non-existent role within the industry. "Compliance, as reviewed and dictated by the government, has more traditionally been applied to industries like manufacturing, banking and pharmaceuticals," said Paul. "But things have changed, and the government's role in contracting standards within the A/E industry has grown. Federal investigative agencies are increasingly reviewing the conduct of A/E firms to ensure they are practicing within the law."

Paul's day-to-day job is similar to the Chief Division Counsel role at the FBI - making sure everyone in the organization, regardless of job duty, understands the law and the firm's policies and procedures, and adheres to them to further the firm's mission. Under Paul's guidance, CannonDesign has launched a robust Code of Conduct, established an ethics and integrity hotline, and put its employees through more than 15,850 hours of compliance training. Based on results from a recent employee engagement survey, questions related to employees' understanding of CannonDesign's compliance protocols received the highest scores of any in the 150-question survey.

Beyond promoting a culture of integrity within CannonDesign, Paul has committed himself to furthering compliance adoption throughout the profession. "Since launching our program, I've met with more than 24 A/E firms to share our knowledge and help kick-start their efforts. This is new territory for most firms, but they're realizing that the risks in today's business climate are just too great. The public, our clients and the government all expect A/E firms to have robust compliance programs in place."

Although Paul's life has slowed down a bit since his days in the FBI, his pledge to protecting the public is unwavering. Now, rather than spend his days under cover, Paul is proud to be leading the discussion about compliance in the AEC industry. He recognizes that bringing the topic out into the open is the best way to safeguard design firms.

"There really shouldn't be any hesitancy to talking about compliance in our industry" adds Paul. "Through discussion, education and training - that's how you build understanding and ensure AEC firms around the country are best prepared to conduct business in this new era."

Micheal McManus is communications director at CannonDesign. This article originally appeared on CannonDesign. CannonDesign is CFE Media's content partner.

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