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White collar crime still positively favoured in workplaces
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White collar crime still positively favoured in workplaces

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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 a new report.

The ‘2018 Global White Collar Crime Survey’ from White & Case and the University of Manchester 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 ten 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 forty per cent of legal and compliance staff are feeling pressured into approving engagement with third parties despite bribery and corruption risks.

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This engagement is despite bribery and corruption red flags, where five per cent indicated this is always the case, 14 per cent noted this happens often in their organisation, 21 per cent said that it happens sometimes, while 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 those involved in 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 indicated they felt a promotion would likely follow, for aiding of the meeting of company targets.

This led to the branding of perceived bribery benefits as a “key issue” in the report.

Reacting to these statistics, the report emphasised the need for the “tone from the top” to percolate through the company, 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 “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,” he 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, a 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 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.”

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