U.K. regulators have started 2015 with a bang, promising increased cooperation among regulatory agencies, and tougher enforcement of financial crimes, with an emphasis on anti-bribery and corruption efforts.
The recently-released Anti-Corruption Plan highlights the U.K.’s first effort to pull together a broad range of resources to fight bribery and corruption, including “government, civil society organisations, law enforcement and other partners.” Their stated aim is to combatting corruption in both the public and private sectors “re-enforce the global fight against corruption, stamp out bribery and corruption, and raise global standards.”
The plan is split into four P’s (Pursue, Prevent, Protect, Prepare) and outlines more than 60 action points, creating a cohesive strategy for all U.K. government entities to better combat corruption.
This move toward cross-governmental collaboration is echoed by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Its head of investigations, Jamie Symington, recently said that it will referring potential wrongdoing directly to the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
This kind of collaboration transcends borders as well—cooperation with foreign governments is an increasing part of U.K. investigations. And of course a bigger pool of resources for investigations ultimately leads to a greater chance of more successful prosecutions.
To Protect Your Organisation, Build an Effective Business Conduct Programme: Five Key Components
For organisations that do business in the U.K., now is the time to be proactive about building an effective business conduct programme. Firms that wait until the regulators coming knocking at their door will find themselves in hot water before an investigation even begins.
Conversely, firms that can prove that they have solid measures in place to prevent bribery, corruption and other financial crimes—including a clear anti-bribery policy—will be seen much more favourably in the eyes of the regulators. In some cases, as with the U.K. Bribery Act, these measures could provide a complete defence from corporate liability.
There are five key components of a robust business conduct programme that combines high-quality content, technology, and expertise to facilitate a strong corporate culture:
- Offer employees a variety of ways to raise concerns internally through a whistleblower hotline service and ensure that issues are investigated thoroughly using incident management software.
- Distribute whistleblower policies companywide and ensure employees are trained on their duty to report. Ensure managers are trained on how to handle reports without retaliation.
- Establish a comprehensive third-party due diligence programme that will screen and continuously monitor your third party relationships. This is essential as you can often be held liable for the conduct of third-parties doing business on your behalf.
- Report any potential violations promptly to regulators and cooperate fully in any investigation.
- Ensure active oversight by your board of directors in ensuring proper business conduct and in holding executives accountable.