Business must get prepared for new bribery laws

BRIBERY and corruption is big business. Just ask a lawyer. With anti-bribery legislation passing through Parliament, a raft of corporate investigations, litigation support and crisis management specialists are gearing up for a flood of new cases in the City.

Among these, the most colourful must surely be Daniel Nardello, chief executive of Nardello & Co, who has offices around the world including in London, New York and Milan.

The Brooklyn-raised Italian American is far from your average City lawyer. As a former prosecutor in the US Attorney General’s Office Nardello brought to trial mafia mobsters who were his former neighbours and later pursued white collar criminals from Wall Street.

His views about the UK’s record on corruption and bribery serve as an eye-opener to any companies who think the issue does not affect them. And it’s a potential problem that’s coming sooner than many may think.

The government is trying to get new anti-bribery legislation onto the statue books before the General Election that must be held by 3 June. The UK must meet its obligations under the 1999 Anti-Bribery Convention and has already been heavily criticised by other signatories for the paucity of successful prosecutions. The US is driving the global crackdown having itself had anti-corruption laws in place since the 1970s.

Even Italy, which has a reputation for high-profile corruption cases, has adopted stringent anti-bribery laws ahead of the UK. And this comes even though the OECD has already slammed the UK for undermining the global war on corruption by abandoning a probe into a Saudi Arabian arms deal by defence group BAE Systems.

Nardello predicts the services of firms such as his will be especially in demand once companies realise the potential costs associated with defending multi-jurisdictional cases – such as when the UK’s Serious Fraud Office and the US Department of Justice work together to bring major cases.

To avoid catastrophic litigation, Nardello advises companies to be better prepared with their compliance programs as they seek to ensure their businesses are not infected with corrupt practices that could come back to bite them later.

It could be a tall order for global companies with offices in some of the most corrupt parts of the world. BAE Systems is not the only multi-national to have faced accusations of paying bribes to win business. As Nardello notes, there is a clear temptation to fall in with local cultures regardless of the wider ethical or legal environment. But from now on, companies must think again.