Anti-Bribery & Corruption (ABAC) in Business Today

6 minute read

March 2021

The impacts of corruption can be very severe and have been historically well documented. On a political levelcorruption – however and wherever it manifests itself – stands in the way of order, the rule of law, and democratic principles and redirects investment into the hands of corrupt officials.  

Perhaps these effects and impacts may seem distant or too abstract when an organization is seeking to close an important contract. But bribery and corruption are not victimless crimes or just the way business is done in certain parts of the globe.” Bribery and corruption come with serious consequences for the organization and its operations. 

In today’s hyper-connected and media-driven worldit can be a serious challenge for an organization to come back from certain mistakes. Reports and charges of bribery and corruption are near the top of this list, but nevertheless, we continually see incident after incident in organizations all over the world being tied up in bribery and corruption charges. These instances are far too common and destructive. The current pandemic has increased the exposure of bribery and corruption, and as the world opens up there will be more exposure in the competition for new contracts. 

Consequences result in material adverse effects on the business, annual and interim results of operations, additional incurred costs, cash flows, and financial condition. Possible outcomes also include reputational damage, which could hurt revenue growth via client loss/limited client wins, fines, lawsuits and potential limits on operations in certain areas. 

Consider This: 

  • The German engineering company, Siemens, paid a fine of $1.6 billion dollars to settle bribery charges made by U.S. and European authorities. The company was charged with paying out more than a billion dollars in bribes to win contracts around the world. 

“Employees obtained large amounts of cash from Siemens cash desks. Employees sometimes carried that cash in suitcases across international borders to pay bribes,” Linda Thomsen, SEC director of enforcement, stated at a press conference during the scandal.  

  • A year ago, Airbus paid a record fine of almost $4 billion after reaching a plea bargain on a bribery and corruption scandal that had lasted over a decade.  

The company ran an extensive bribery program with a reported budget of up to 250-300 million euros. Authorities in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States charged the aircraft manufacturing giant with using third-party partners to bribe government officials.  

  • Latvia’s central bank chief had recently appeared in court to account for charges of corruption and accepting bribery payments in the form of cash and vacations. 

The scandal is the first corruption trial of a European Central Bank (ECB) governor and has caused damage to the image of Europe’s central bank.   

As a result, organizations are increasingly revamping their efforts to take a strong stance on anti-bribery and anti-corruption (ABAC). Many organizations are attempting to further drive effectiveness and efficiency in anti-bribery and anti-corruption programs by implementing a technology architecture and framework for risk and compliance management throughout the extended enterprise.  

A successful ABAC program requires the organization to provide an integrated process, information, and technology architecture. This helps to identify, analyze, manage, and monitor ABAC, as well as capture changes in the organization’s risk profile from internal and external events as they occur. Mature ABAmanagement should be a seamless part of the organization and its operations.  

Anti-Bribery & Anti-Corruption Regulation  

Anti-bribery and anti-corruption compliance and risk managementis continually one of the main challenges that organizations are confronted with. All over the world more and more countries have instituted serious regulations cracking down on bribery and corruption, implementing more sophisticated means to combat corruption with aggressive enforcement and cooperation between different regulatory and law enforcement bodiesIn addition, more countries are introducing individual criminal liability for bribery-related offenses. 

Some of the most prominent regulations regarding anti-bribery and corruption include but are not limited to: 

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery and Corruption – The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention establishes legal standards to combat bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions. The OECD is the only international anti-corruption mandate focused on the ‘supply side’ of ABAC. 

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) – The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is a US law that prohibits American companies and individuals from paying bribes to foreign officials in business deals and contracts. FCPA contains two main articles that focus on anti-bribery provisions, as well as the records and internal controls in the organizations accounting practices.  

United Kingdom (UK) Bribery Act – Passed by the British Parliament in 2010, the Bribery Act criminalized bribery, the bribing of foreign government representatives and the failure by private companies to prevent corruption. It also made it an offense to be bribed. The act applies to UK citizens, residents and companies and organizations that are incorporated in the UK, or that conduct business in the UK—granting similar extraterritorial privileges as the FCPA.  

Sapin II – The French National Assembly passed Sapin II to usher in a new era of ABC in the country. Sapin II is largely aligned with other major ABAC regulations around the world, such as FCPA and the UK Bribery Act.  

Best Practices for Managing ABAC and Third-Party Risk 

When entering into an outsourcing arrangement or working with third parties, it is imperative that there is a screening process that validate that the thirdparty can fulfill the obligations and requirements of the relationship and also ensure that they will not introduce unwarranted risk and compliance exposure. High-risk relationships need to be evaluated against defined criteria to determine if the relationship should be established or avoided. This should include: 

  • Know who you are doing business with  
  • Conduct database checks. This includes collecting general information on a third-party during the onboarding process, and then screening this information against law enforcement watchlists, sanctions list, and a list of politically exposed persons in many situations and regions. 
  • Initial due diligence. This involves both database checks as well as initial assessment through a questionnaire to the third-party before the relationship is finalized. 
  • Assessment questionnairesThis involves a survey format for assessment questions that the third party has to answer and provide attestations to their business practices. In this context, the practices related to anti-bribery and anti-corruption. The assessment questions should be attested to be a signature of a principal of the third-party.  
  • Ongoing due diligence. This is the ongoing and continuous monitoring of the relationship throughout its lifecycle. Just because a third party might have been cleared to do business with during the initial screening, over time that relationship and the risk of bribery and corruption it brings may change. Ongoing database checks as well as periodic assessment questionnaires (e.g., annually) should be conducted. 

The Dynamic Nature of Business  

Modern business has drastically changed over the years. An organization’s operations are often scattered and distributed throughout different locations, departments, and relationships. Now organizations are also supporting an extensive workfromhome program, and many plan on keeping it for the foreseeable futureIn this pandemic the risk of bribery and corruption has risen and will continue to rise coming out of the pandemic as organizations compete for limited contracts and services.

Suppliers, employees, vendors, consultants/contractors, and their underlying operations all need to be monitored and tracked to ensure the organization is aligned with compliance obligations and can manage risk effectively. Many within this web may not even be traditional employees but they still carry the same potential compliance risk exposure for the organization.

In a time of crisis, such as the current global pandemic, standards and codes of conduct are increasingly important. In our current environment, business is uncertain, most work is being done remotely while supply chains are being stretched thin.  

A mature ABAC program will understand the requirements of this time of crisis, enforcing controls across third parties and employees working at home, meeting international industry standards, and any other applicable regulation to the organization. This is key in building a consistent and effective compliance and ethics framework for your organization, especially in times of crisis. 

To learn more about ProcessUnity and how you can monitor ABAC in your third parties contact us today. 

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About Us

ProcessUnity is a leading provider of cloud-based applications for risk and compliance management. The company’s software as a service (SaaS) platform gives organizations the control to assess, measure, and mitigate risk and to ensure the optimal performance of key business processes. ProcessUnity’s flagship solution, ProcessUnity Vendor Risk Management, protects companies and their brands by reducing risks from third-party vendors and suppliers. ProcessUnity helps customers effectively and efficiently assess and monitor both new and existing vendors – from initial due diligence and onboarding through termination. Headquartered outside of Boston, Massachusetts, ProcessUnity is used by the world’s leading financial service firms and commercial enterprises. For more information, visit