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Survey: Companies losing business to corruption risk

Jaclyn Jaeger | May 16, 2017

More companies are choosing to cease business with certain partners, while others say they’ve lost business over the last year, because of corruption risk, finds a recent global anti-corruption survey.

The global anti-corruption survey, conducted by global advisory firm AlixPartners, explored what effect corruption risk has on the global business environment, as well as what effect anti-corruption laws and regulations have on compliance-related activities. The survey also assessed ways in which companies are preventing, identifying, and handling corruption risk. Respondents included corporate counsel, legal and compliance officers from more than 20 major industries in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

In the survey, 42 percent of more than 300 respondents said they ceased doing business with certain partners because of corruption risk, up from 32 percent last year and up from 28 percent the year before. Another 31 percent said they lost business during the past 12 months due to corruption risk, up from 23 percent last year. Moreover, 37 percent said their companies pulled out of or delayed an acquisition because of corruption risk.

Most survey respondents agreed that it is impossible to avoid corrupt business practices in certain regions of the world, namely in Russia (35 percent), Africa (33 percent) and China (27 percent).

Anti-corruption compliance and due diligence. In response to the heightened enforcement environment in recent years, an increasing number of companies are adopting anti-corruption compliance controls and policies.

Sixty percent of respondents said they implemented an anti-corruption program in the past 10 years, up from 51 percent last year. Additionally, 76 percent said they’ve reviewed their policies within the last year, up from 67 percent in 2016. More compliance programs today specifically are addressing Foreign Corrupt Practices Act laws (59 percent) and Office of Foreign Assets Control laws (51 percent).

Internal audits and anti-corruption compliance policies take the lead as the most successful measures implemented to reduce corruption risk, cited by 84 percent of respondents. Additionally, 81 percent cited training as another effective measure.

Whistleblower programs continue to be a key tool in identifying corruption risk, with 95 percent of companies reporting that they have a process in place for handling whistleblower reports. Moreover, 37 percent of survey respondents said they’ve received a tip related to bribery or corruption, up from 27 percent in last year’s survey.

Nearly all respondents expressed confidence in their due-diligence processes. The biggest limiting factors to effective due diligence cited, however, are multiple business partners (44 percent); time pressures (39 percent); and difficulty in accessing information (37 percent).

Data challenges and opportunities. The survey also revealed that data poses both opportunities and challenges for companies. Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents said they use real-time monitoring for suspicious activity.

“Technology continues to be a useful tool as many companies use real-time monitoring and data analysis to weed out suspicious behavior,” said Harvey Kelly, managing director and global leader of AlixPartners’ financial advisory services practice. “However, with technological advances and more data comes larger challenges—such as ensuring data safety—especially across borders.”

Most respondents (87 percent) believe their companies use data successfully to identify possible corruption during cross-border investigations. The biggest challenge to tackling corruption risk is the volume of information that companies must contend with, including lack of integrated systems (75 percent) and ensuring data security (74 percent).

Dealing with data across country borders is also expected to pose steady or increased challenges in the year ahead for nearly all survey respondents. In addition, dealing with local data protection laws poses a problem for nearly half of respondents when they need to collect and analyze data.