Against a backdrop of heightened regulatory and reputational concerns, only 37% of Chief Financial Officers maintain an active role in developing their organization’s anti-bribery and corruption programs, according to Kroll’s “2017 Anti-Bribery and Corruption Benchmarking Report."
The report highlighted that more than one-third (35 percent) of all risk and compliance professionals surveyed expect their organization’s bribery and corruption risks to increase in 2017, and more than half (57 percent) expect them to persist at the same levels as last year.
Respondents believe the top risks to their anti-bribery and corruption programs will come from third party violations (40 percent), a complex global regulatory environment (14 percent), and employees making improper payments (12 percent).
The reputational risk associated with bribery and corruption allegations is also on the minds of most respondents. Indeed, general reputational concerns went from being the least likely reason identified in last year's ABC Report for a third party to fail a company’s vetting standards to being the most likely reason — a stunning change in just one year.
“It is clear the anti-bribery and corruption program can be viewed in the context of regulation, as well as more broadly as a means of protecting an organization’s most valuable asset — its reputation,” said Steven Bock, Managing Director and Head of Operations and Research with Kroll’s Compliance practice.
Rising senior leadership engagement
In a related development, the survey data suggests senior leadership’s engagement regarding anti-bribery and corruption efforts is on the rise. Fifty-one percent of respondents state senior leadership at their organization is “highly engaged” with anti-bribery and corruption efforts, a 4 percent increase over the previous year.
“All research points toward a clear link between ethics and performance, and with more involvement from leadership, we are seeing that anti-bribery and corruption efforts are being prioritized,” added Erica Salmon Byrne EVP & Executive Director of Business Ethics Leadership Alliance, Ethisphere.
“Smart companies with strong compliance programs are taking note and adjusting their priorities accordingly in order to mitigate unnecessary risk and protect their company’s valuable reputation for integrity.”
Dependence on ongoing compliance monitoring
Another strong trend that emerged in this year’s ABC Report is the dependence on ongoing compliance monitoring to capture post-onboarding bribery and corruption issues.
More than half (55 percent) of respondents report they identified legal, ethical, or compliance issues with a third party after conducting initial onboarding due diligence. In 40 percent of these cases, the issue that was later identified did not exist at the time of initial onboarding.
The value of ongoing monitoring is reflected in the level of confidence that survey-takers have in their ABC programs. Nearly 80 percent of those respondents who monitor all of their third parties, regardless of risk profile, believe they are either extremely or appropriately prepared to address global bribery and corruption risks.
Conversely, feelings of preparedness drop as the level of ongoing monitoring goes down.
“As compliance professionals, our respondents know the importance of monitoring when working with third parties. But this report highlights the need for an ‘interval monitoring’ approach to ongoing diligence, where the scope and frequency of monitoring efforts is determined based on risk,” said Kroll Senior Managing Director Joseph Spinelli.
“With vague regulatory guidance, optimal frequency is subject to interpretation,” adds Kroll Managing Director Robert Huff. “Firms need to determine a level of monitoring so they can react appropriately, in a timely manner, to any changes in a third party’s risk profile.”
The ABC Report also found that close to half (49%) of respondents showed concern that they did not have enough resources to support anti-corruption efforts. One-third of respondents reported having a greater level of concern about personal liability than the prior year.
Twenty-six percent of respondents said issues that were identified at the time of third party onboarding were not adequately addressed.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents reported engaging in M&A in 2016, but conducted lesser levels of due diligence on targets or targets’ third parties than expected.