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Business speaks out on preventing corporate crime

29 November 2016
by Guest author

foreign-bribery-reportDr. Klaus Moosmayer, Chief Compliance Officer, Siemens AG, and Chair of the BIAC Task Force on Anti-Bribery/Corruption, and Dr. Ulrike Desimoni, Senior Counsel Compliance Legal, Siemens AG. These comments are a contribution to a public consultation on foreign bribery and the liability of legal persons by the OECD Working Group on Bribery.

Business has on many occasions underlined the fundamental importance of compliance, which should be understood not just as adherence to the law and internal company rules, but as a key component of business integrity. It is true that a corporation may in certain cases create an environment that encourages employees, officers, and agents to pay bribes to secure business. Yes, but the corporation can also do the opposite. It can establish an effective compliance system. Effective compliance increases the likelihood of detection of offenses in the company and thus has a positive impact not only on detection and prosecution but also on prevention.

This is because compliance systems have a strong potential for deterrence within the company. Companies should therefore be urged to carry out effective compliance work in order to prevent white-collar crimes, shed light on internally detected misconduct, and disclose it to the authorities. In return, the compliance measures should be taken into consideration when setting the amount of the financial penalty in the event of a violation of the law, even to the extent of waiving a sanction on the company.

When imposing sanctions, the conduct of the company (on which the financial penalty is to be imposed) both before and after the offense must be taken into consideration. This includes the company’s unreserved assistance in clarifying the facts of the case but also the implementation or subsequent introduction of compliance measures, which can be understood as a clear indication of the company management’s commitment to acting in accordance with the law.

The fact that bribes were detected – and that needs to be emphasised – does not necessarily mean the established compliance system failed. In fact, it shows that the compliance system worked: Bribes were detected.

With regard to the 2010 UK Bribery Act, which – like anti-bribery law in some other countries – contains a compliance defence rule, Kenneth Clarke, Secretary of State for Justice highlights: “The objective of the Act is not to bring the full force of the criminal law to bear upon well run commercial organizations that experience an isolated incident of bribery on their behalf. So in order to achieve an appropriate balance, section 7 provides a full defence. This is in recognition of the fact that no bribery prevention regime will be capable of preventing bribery at all times.“

In our view, when it comes to the level of sanctions, different and adequate types of sanctions for legal persons are already in place, either criminal or non-criminal ones. These include fines, confiscation disgorgement, debarment from public procurement and other penalties like dissolution and publication.

While some focus mainly on the liability of companies, the ‘role’ the individual may have must not be disregarded. in In September 2015, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) released  its policy on Individual Accountability for Corporate Wrongdoing (“Yates memorandum”), which correctly signalled a priority of pursuing, punishing and deterring individual (executives, manager) wrongdoers. According to the Yates approach, “the most effective way to combat corporate misconduct is by seeking accountability from the individuals who perpetrated the wrongdoing.” The policy and its six key steps to guide prosecutors and civil attorneys at DoJ in conducting and evaluating corporate investigations clearly show the need to focus on individual wrongdoers in addition to companies. Individuals, not only companies are accountable.

Useful links

Public consultation on foreign bribery and the liability of legal persons

OECD Roundtable on Corporate Liability for Foreign Bribery, Paris, 9 December 2016

OECD Anti-Bribery Convention


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