One of the most important lessons in life is how to prioritise things – how to spend your limited time, energy, money and other resources on the things that matter. It’s the bedrock of the risk-based approach beloved (-ish) of all MLROs. So when the government brings out a shiny new piece of legislation called the Bribery Act, and the financial regulator lets it be known that this is going to be a priority for them, you’d think that those concerned would take notice. Heavens above: if your local bobbies say that they will be targeting drink drivers, you do not head down to your local boozer for a skinful before pouring yourself behind the wheel and weaving off down the road. (Hopefully you wouldn’t do that anyway, but you see my point.) And yet it seems that UK investment banks refused to see the huge “ABC” written in ten-foot high letters on the wall.
The FSA has just published the findings of its thematic review into anti-bribery and corruption (ABC) systems and controls in investment banks, and their report does not make happy reading. Among the fifteen banks they visited, nearly half did not have an adequate ABC risk assessment, while only two firms had carried out specific ABC internal audits. Senior management were not provided with enough information to discharge their oversight duties, and there were “significant issues” in firms’ dealings with third parties used to win or retain business. Unsurprisingly, the FSA is now considering whether further regulatory action is required in relation to certain firms in its review. Can we make it any clearer? Whether you agree with the Bribery Act or not, it is here, and the authorities have a bee of Zeppelin proportions in their bonnet about it.