Based on the work we have been undertaking with corporates across the globe who are taking the Act and its implications seriously, it is safe to say that the introduction of the Bribery Act has already begun to be a positive factor for change not only in the UK but also in those places where corporates who operate in the UK are headquartered and otherwise operate.
However, our recent Global Anti-Bribery and Corruption Survey 2011 highlights the fact that many multi-nationals still struggle to implement and embed proportionate and risk-based compliance programmes that comply with the multitude of regulations and laws around the world and give them transparency into the actions of those acting on their behalf. Further, expansion into new and more high risk markets present new challenges for those responsible for ensuring compliance within their organisations.
Key findings from the survey:
- 86 percent of UK companies in our survey stated that they now have a written AB&C policy
- 20 percent have still not trained their staff in order to properly imbed their new policies throughout the organisation (a key principle of the MoJ's Guidance) which leaves a risk that they will only gather dust on a shelf and not truly live within day-to-day operations.
- Three-quarters of UK corporates expressed difficulty in conducting adequate due diligence on overseas agents and other third parties
- 2 in 5 had not provided their AB&C policies to third parties acting for them, and 3 in 5 had not required third parties to attend AB&C training.
These results leave one to wonder how organisations are going about managing their AB&C risks and whether the policies that have been issued are actually fit for purpose in addressing these risks. It also begs the question whether these third parties actually understand the expectations of the corporates for whom they win and conduct business.
Although the UK Bribery Act is a key compliance concern for those operating in the UK, it is clear from recent statements by the Serious Fraud Office that 1 July will not mark the crossing of a line in the sand. The Act does give UK law enforcement a much sharper weapon to utilise against corruption around the world, but enforcement actions may be some time in coming. However, one only has to look around Europe and across the Atlantic to see the tidal wave of other laws and regulations approaching or already crashing on our shores, including the EU and US competition regimes, the US Dodd Frank Act, and trans-Atlantic efforts regarding trade compliance and sanctions. Given the commonality of concepts, principles, and stated aims of these various regimes, the only way to continue to operate both profitably and compliantly is for Boards of Directors and the organisations they serve to take a holistic view of regulatory risk and compliance.
In spite of the struggles highlighted by our recent AB&C survey, the fact that many corporates are already tackling these issues head on is some cause for optimism. However, only time will tell whether Boards, executives, and others responsible for compliance within multi-national organisations will grasp 1 July as "the end of the beginning" and an impetus for positive change or whether the Act and numerous other legal and regulatory regimes will be "the beginning of the end" for them.