Companies Struggle With 3rd Party Corruption Compliance, Auditing

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on September 21, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When it comes to international business, the arm of anti-bribery and corruption laws is long, reaching transactions across the world. And the arms of the law are growing more numerous. It's no longer just America's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that companies have to worry about. Canada and Brazil both have strong anti-bribery laws, while the U.K.'s Bribery Act is stricter than that of any other country. Companies don't need to just worry about themselves, either. Third-parties can open up corporate actors to liability for bribery and corruption violations.

No wonder many companies rank auditing third parties as their number one challenge. A recent survey by KPMG highlights those challenges, showing where companies are falling short in their international anti-bribery and corruption compliance efforts.

Struggles With Compliance and Third Parties

KPMG surveyed 659 respondents from around the world to look at the challenges companies faced in complying with anti-bribery and corruption laws. What did they find? First, compliance is getting harder, with 77 percent of us clients ranking third party auditing as their greatest challenge -- a 34 percent increase from 2011.

Meanwhile, in many economies, bribery remains the norm. According to the World Bank, $1 trillion was paid out in bribes in 2013.

The survey highlighted many areas where companies are coming up short. Failings that the KPMG survey revealed include:

  • Not Identifying High-Risk Third Parties: Knowing where potential liabilities are makes them easier to address. For that reason, 66 percent of companies have formal procedures for identifying high risk third parties. A third of respondents don't have any formal evaluation of third party risks at all.
  • Not Getting, Not Exercising Audit Rights: Fifty-six percent of companies include right to audit clauses in their third party contracts. Those rights have give companies important protections against potential corruption liabilities -- but only if they're exercised, which is rare. Of those with audit rights, only 41 percent use them, meaning less than a quarter of all respondents had ever audited a third party.
  • Not Supporting Anti-corruption Efforts: Respondents ranked lack of resources as fourth among top challenges. Even when risks are identified, acting upon them can require money and manpower that simply isn't available. KPMG suggests that more top-down risk assessment is needed to convince companies of the importance of proactively addressing compliance risks.

It wasn't all bad news in the report, however. All but a handful of companies had formal anti-bribery and corruption programs, while most translated those policies and procedures into multiple languages. The report also identified data analytics as a promising, cost-effective, but currently underutilized way to identify and respond to corruption risks. Were data analytics to be utilized, companies could more easily spot fraud indicators, match third parties to international sanctions databases, and monitor suspicious expenses and communications.

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