Bribery Act seminar - Make sure the tone from the top is good
A key warning from leading International corporate crime expert Barry Vitou who presented a breakfast briefing last week in Guernsey on anti-bribery and corruption legislation.
The event was organised by Corporate Risk Solutions (CRS) and was attended by over 50 professionals from the local finance sector.
Mr Vitou explained that the fact that many financial institutions are now seeking to develop new geographic markets such as Asian and South American countries, creates interesting challenges for businesses, regarding anti-bribery and corruption.
He outlined the developments in the UK since the introduction of the new Bribery Act, which came into force in July 2011 and emphasised that whilst there have been few “headline” prosecutions, there is a lot of activity going on behind the scenes at the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and that this seemingly low profile should not be interpreted as inactivity.
Despite early arguably flippant headlines regarding the Bribery Act, (“Golf trips ruled illegal” – Evening Standard January 2011) Mr Vitou pointed out that the SFO has begun to enjoy a better press image citing the recent prosecution of Asil Nadir as a prime example of this.
Warning companies against complacency with regard to the Bribery Act in particular, Mr Vitou stressed the need for organisations to ensure that their anti bribery policies and procedures were robust. He cited examples of businesses weaving various internet-sourced policies together and creating unworkable encyclopaedic documents that he described as being “stitched together like Frankenstein’s daughter”. A common sense approach “from the top” is key, the end result being a practical policy document that will be read, understood and followed.
The final area Mr Vitou touched upon was the risks associated with dealing with intermediaries particularly those based in countries with poor bribery and corruption records. He advised attendees to seek references and even better, to visit intermediaries in their place of work before transacting business with them.
Darren Wadley, Managing Director of CRS commented:
“Barry gave an interesting insight into what we can expect from the SFO going forward. Their pipeline is growing and there is no doubt that the number of prosecutions will increase. Companies should take the time to review and refresh their anti bribery policies and procedures. It is a serious issue and as Barry said – you don’t want to get investigated by the SFO!”
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