Employees still believe it pays to improperly incentivise third parties, while legal and compliance staff are feeling pressured to engage with third parties despite bribery risks, according to academic research.
The 2018 Global White-Collar Crime Survey by international law firm White & Case and the University of Manchester in the UK said that while companies are making progress on anti-bribery and corruption strategies, nearly 20 per cent of respondents work for companies without any formal anti-bribery or corruption policies in place.
Another 10 per cent did not know whether their organisation had such policies in place, which may indicate a lack of education in the workplace about white-collar crime.
Alarmingly, up to 40 per cent of legal and compliance staff are feeling pressured into approving engagement with third parties despite bribery and corruption risks.
Doing so often comes despite the presence of red flags, where 5 per cent indicated this is always the case, 14 per cent noted this happens often in their organisation, and 21 per cent said that it happens sometimes.
Just 16 per cent stated that it doesn’t happen very often.
Only 44 per cent of respondents said that they never feel under pressure to approve the engagement of third parties despite such red flags.
For those from non-legal or compliance roles, such as marketing, 39 per cent of respondents thought it would be possible for someone in their company or position to offer up bribes to public officials for preferential treatment.
The report’s research also found that 48 per cent of respondents “feel that people who pay bribes on behalf of their company are rewarded internally, and/or able to enjoy substantial personal benefit”.
For these individuals, 64 per cent then indicated that they felt concerned employees “would be awarded ‘special status’”, while 60 per cent felt a promotion would likely follow, for aiding of the meeting of company targets.
This led the report to brand the perceived benefits of bribery as a “key issue”.
Reacting to these statistics, the report emphasised the need for the “tone from the top” to percolate throughout a business, and “be visible in tangible demonstrations of the commitment to compliance… not simply be symbolic in nature”.
Responding to perception concerns, White & Case partner Jonathan Pickworth said that “companies need to do more to tackle this idea that wrongdoing will result in substantial personal gain”.
“Taking a closer look at how employees in high-risk positions and jurisdictions are incentivised, and how their success and performance is measured, is key,” the partner noted.
“Meeting compliance objectives and maintaining high standards of behaviour should be firmly linked to progression and financial reward, in a much more tangible way.”
For Dr Nicholas Lord, Reader in Criminology at the University of Manchester’s School of Law, “companies need to pay more attention than ever to ensuring internal compliance and ABC systems are robust” with the raft of new legislation and extended regulator powers globally over recent years.
He said that the study indicates “there is still a way to go — in terms of the development of internal compliance programmes and structure, and also in changing perceptions around the benefits and consequences of bribery and corruption”.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.