Business Compliance Chair (VBO-UGent -ULiège)

It is no exaggeration to say that companies - and not only the largest and international ones but also SMEs - face much more and much more detailed regulation today than they did a generation ago, and that there is no indication that in our "audit societies" that regulatory curve will rise less steeply in the near future. This increases the legal risk to which companies are exposed, but also places the additional burden on government to try to monitor compliance with all those regulations. The reasons for this evolution are without a doubt complex, but it certainly also has to do with the government's legitimate desire to accompany the increased impact of companies (e.g., environmental or privacy) with more rules to try to limit and prevent the negative externalities of some corporate activities. This then leads to typical compliance legislation such as on safety of production processes and products (e.g. in the chemical industry), environmental impacts, anti-waste legislation, privacy legislation (e.g. GDPR), economic sanctions rules, sustainability rules (e.g. in the construction, textile, minerals, transport sector but also in many other sectors, not at least the financial sector) and many more. A fairly recent but very important evolution, partly stimulated by the UN Sustainable Development Goals movement, is the imposition on larger corporations of legally binding human rights and sustainability due diligence obligations throughout their entire (global) value chain, value chain of which also includes local SMEs. The ever-increasing importance of increasingly complex compliance frameworks also raises many legal questions. The FEB has rightly judged that academic research into this, with input and feedback from the companies that deal with compliance issues on a daily basis, should be stimulated, and this Chair will contribute to that. The VBO-FEB has had the wisdom and good sense to see that the law faculties of Ghent and Liège already have experts in legal compliance issues (Professors Hans De Wulf and Roman Aydogdu), hence the granting of the Chair to these two faculties. This may be seen as fine recognition of the expertise of the chair holders.


The purpose of the chair is essentially twofold. First, the chair should allow the supervisors (at UGent: Prof. Hans De Wulf) to investigate and deepen legal issues concerning compliance in companies, so that also in Belgium academic research of an international level can take place in this also socially very relevant field. The professors conduct their own research and will organize an international scientific conference on compliance issues towards the end of the chair's term. But the chair holders will also direct the research of others, in the first place of the joint Ph.d. Ghent-Liège employed within the framework of the Chair. In this way, the Chair gives the UGent law faculty the opportunity to increase the impact of its already existing expertise on compliance (and, of course, to further develop this expertise).

Secondly, the Chair is a means of achieving cross-fertilization between, on the one hand, the lawyers but also "technical specialists" (such as engineers and specialists in IT systems) who are working on compliance in the field ("in practice") at companies and, on the other hand, academic lawyers who have the necessary independence to investigate sometimes policy-sensitive compliance issues. This partially interdisciplinary cross-fertilization allows academic insights to be applied in and tested against practice, and will enrich academic research with real-world experience. To facilitate this -in addition to the obviously frequent individual contacts- annual meetings ("forums") between academics and practitioners will take place through the FEB. The "steering committee" supervising the chair will also be a permanent such forum, as it were. This will undoubtedly contribute to the influence of academic compliance research within the compliance community that must deal with compliance issues on a daily basis.

For the VBO-FEB, it is also important that the Chair will allow Belgian research to be put on the international map, and at the same time can stimulate cooperation between a Flemish and French-speaking university, which is indeed very positive for the Universities and law faculties of Ghent and Liège, which have long maintained good relations.






UGent: Prof. dr. Hans De Wulf (Department of Interdisciplinary Study of Law, Private Law and Business Law):

promotor leerstoel Business Compliance

ULiège: Prof. Dr. Roman Aydogdu