Have multinationals worked out how to do business with integrity?
I was the moderator of a session at the 2017 OECD Integrity Forum in Paris last week. The panellists were
Adrian Walker, Global Co-Head of Infrastructure and Co-Leader of BUsiness Integrity at Hogan Lovells LLP, a law firm
Carlos Santiso, Head of Innovations for Citizen Services at the Inter-American Development Bank, and
Paul Maassen, Director of Civil Society of the Open Government Partnership
The panel was on the theme of "Beyond Cases and Open Data: Towards a Culture of Integrity." It
brought together experiences from a top-10 global law firm whose clients include some of the world's largest multinationals; the Inter-American Development Bank which lends to governments throughout South and Central America; a local government experience from a young state; and the Open Government Partnership, which promotes transparency, empower citizens, curb corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
You can watch the entire session through this link.
In this post I focus on a poll that we conducted with the audience, a group of people who essentially work full-time on issues of anti-corruption and integrity.
68 audience members took part in the poll. I introduced the questions by referencing the spate of large fines imposed on multinationals for foreign bribery violations over the last 5 to 10 years. Did these fines finally mark a turning point? And if not, why not?
The room was almost evenly divided on whether these fines marked a turning point. We asked a follow-up question to those who answered "No." (On reflection we should also have asked a follow-up to those who answered "Yes").
The most common answer was that companies don't actually know how to do business with integrity in high-risk environments. All large firms have compliance systems in place, but compliance does not seem to provide the tools and strategies for how to do business successfully.
About half the respondents thought that companies have factored the fines into the cost of doing business. There is plenty of evidence to support this view from cases that have become public. It isn't known how systematic this practice is, but any sensible senior risk officer and Chief Financial Officer should by now have learned from their peers and taken appropriate measures.
The question therefore remains: How can a culture of integrity be fostered that withstands the pressures of competition and uneven playing fields?
I plan to write more about this in future posts.