On Friday 5th May, Transparency International UK (TI-UK) held its latest Business Integrity Forum meeting at Thomson Reuters in Canary Wharf with more than 50 participants (primarily in-house legal and compliance experts) from 30 companies. This event covered a number of relevant issues for in-house counsel and compliance officers.
What is the Business Integrity Forum?
TI-UK’s Business Integrity Forum (BIF) (a group of corporate supporters committed to the fight against corruption) was established in the 1990s and, since the introduction of the UK Bribery Act and subsequent increase in anti-bribery enforcement, has grown into a lively forum.
Membership and engagement with the BIF is a chance for companies to demonstrate commitment and leadership within their industry, reinforce anti-corruption messaging to staff and learn from TI experts and colleagues in other companies on trends in corruption and anti-corruption best practice.
In addition to biannual BIF meetings such as this on the 5th May, TI-UK organises regular roundtables on current anti-corruption developments to keep members up-to-date on the latest thinking.
TI-UK regularly invites BIF members to help inform their view of anti-corruption best practice and their advocacy on related policy areas by joining working groups and advisory committees.
What was discussed?
The keynote presentation at this most recent event was by the Deputy Director of TI-Russia on a “survival guide” for doing business in Russia. Among the key messages were:
maintain your independence and demonstrate your integrity, as by befriending one official you make an enemy of others and by paying one bribe you expose yourself to demands from all sides.
There was an update on TI-UK’s latest research into illicit financial flows into the UK property market, headline facts being:
91% of overseas companies owning London land titles are registered in secrecy jurisdictions. Due to missing data, less than 1% could be definitively linked to politically exposed persons (PEPs). This highlights the challenges in tracking down the proceeds of corruption and the need for greater beneficial ownership transparency.
TI-UK gave an introduction to the Criminal Finances Act and their role in pushing for improvements to the UK’s anti-money laundering and asset recovery regime, and particularly the introduction of unexplained wealth orders (UWOs).
The morning concluded with a panel discussion on how corruption fuels environmental degradation and what businesses can do to help stop it. A key theme from this discussion was:
the importance of collective action in tackling corruption issues in common supply chains and building the capacity of governments to enforce laws.
The event, held under the Chatham House Rule, prompted good discussion and included associated areas, such as third party due diligence, supply chain risk and dealing with state-owned enterprises in high-risk jurisdictions. BIF members shared their own approaches to resolving these issues, and there was a focus on the opportunities and challenges of using technology to tackle corruption.
What is next for the BIF?
There are a number of BIF events through the rest of 2017 that may be of interest to in-house counsel and compliance officers.
In July, TI-UK is planning a roundtable for BIF members hosted by one of their trustees, Michael Bowes QC. This will bring together leading legal experts to discuss the Criminal Finances Act and how businesses should respond to the new crime of failure to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion.
In September, TI-UK launches a new Global Anti-Bribery Guidance website, which will bring together all of TI-UK’s guidance for corporates in an accessible and interactive portal. At the launch event, open to BIF members and other invited guests, the key elements of a best practice anti-bribery programme and how they have developed since the Bribery Act came into force will be discussed.
For more information on the BIF, click here.