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An Exciting Start

We’ve had an exciting start to 2018 here. The Eagles Super Bowl win literally brought the city to a standstill. Hundreds of thousands of people defied the freezing cold to show their love and gratitude. People were so determined to come together for the celebration, some walked across the Ben Franklin Bridge from New Jersey. Us Philadelphians can be pretty tough, but it’s nice to see us reclaim our title as the City of Brotherly Love.

County House Research has some big news too! In April, we will be moving to a larger office suite in our building. Details soon.

Are You Thinking Straight?

In philosophy, logic is the formal study of reasoning. We’re constantly told to “think logically,” meaning we should think critically, basing conclusions on evidence and reason. The trouble is, our human brains come to a lot of illogical conclusions.

There are dozens of fallacies, faulty generalizations, and red herrings that can trip us up. Maybe you remember this classic from the SATs: “If A, then B,”  which means whenever A is true then B is also true. Seems pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, our brains are so smart that they can get ahead of themselves and tell us things like, “Well if that’s the  case, I guess if A is not true, then B must not be true.” You might think that, but you’d be wrong. Our premise is “if A, then B.” We have no idea what happens to A if B is not true or for that matter what B’s status is when A is not true. That’s called the “fallacy of the inverse.”

Another common fallacy is “fallacy of the single cause,” or when we make the illogical assumption that an outcome can only have one cause.  Then there’s the times we decide that there are only two possible choices in a given situation when there may be other alternatives. That’s called a “false dilemma,” which we’ve all probably experienced at work one time or another. The fallacy that correlation means causation is so common that it has spawned a very funny website (and now book) called Spurious Correlations. Here’s one:

To be honest, one would have assumed Nicholas Cage films to be responsible for more drownings. but you get the point. Our insanely smart, really stupid brains make all kinds of critical thinking errors. Here are some websites that might help: From Tech Republic, 10 tips to sharpen your critical thinking skills , then there’s this  mini course on how to identify logical fallacies, and from 2011, this piece by Prof. Chris MacDonald on critical thinking and business ethics.

An Expensive Lesson

Late last year, a unit of J.P. Morgan Chase agreed to pay a $1.25 million fine to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for alleged lapses in background check compliance. According to FINRA, the background checks of 95% of the unit’s non-registered associate employees were incomplete, which may have left Chase unable to determine whether the individuals were qualified to work at the firm or not. To its credit, Chase responded proactively, committing to review its identification, fingerprinting and screening systems, in order to ensure compliance at all levels.

Cases like the one cited above are becoming alarmingly more common. Because compliance spans local, state, and federal levels, and because of the frequency of new background check legislation, companies have to work very hard to maintain the due diligence required to ensure compliance and timeliness. Firms registered with FINRA, like banks and brokerages, have several regulatory compliance obligations, including those of both FINRA and the FTC (via the FCRA). In the case of FINRA, screening requirements were expanded a little over two years ago. The new regulations require much more extensive documentation of screening policies and procedures, as well as regular review to ensure that compliance is being maintained. Complete and up-to-date documentation of policies and procedural compliance is key. Failure to follow and implement new or revised legal requirements can leave companies vulnerable and in a position of costly non-compliance.