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Business ethics and anti-corruption

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Meet the team

Business ethics and anti-corruption regulation and enforcement are at the forefront of the issues facing all businesses today. Standards have changed significantly in recent years. An ethical failure could result in significant civil and criminal sanctions for businesses, and even imprisonment for individuals. Our business ethics and anti-corruption practice helps clients to navigate national and international anti-corruption, regulatory and compliance issues and investigations wherever they arise.

“There is a notable reserve of talent available here. Its dedicated business ethics and anti-corruption department is recognised for its staunch efforts especially in the corporate compliance and pre-dispute training area.” Chambers and Partners UK, 2012

We advise corporates, financial institutions and senior executives extensively on the implications of international business ethics and anti-corruption best practice standards, wider developments in the legislative and corporate landscape, and in relation to internal and government-led investigations. A particular focus of our advice has been on the concept of adequate procedures and the broader issues of risk management and compliance.

The unprecedented level of co-operation among international enforcement authorities requires clients to adopt a coordinated, multinational approach to corruption issues. We work closely with colleagues across our global platform of more than 50 offices across the world in relation to issues arising under the UK Bribery Act, US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and other international and domestic anti-corruption frameworks, including in China, Europe and Asia Pacific, in Russia and across Africa. We are well-placed to address complex business ethics and anti-corruption issues that arise for UK and multinational clients.

Our team includes lawyers who have previously held positions in some of the world’s key regulatory bodies. In the UK, members of the team have worked at the forefront of anticorruption policy and enforcement at the Serious Fraud Office. Our colleagues in the United States include a number of lawyers with significant experience of working within government agencies, including the former Acting Chief and Principal Deputy Chief for Litigation of the Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division.

A number of our business ethics and anti-corruption lawyers have significant experience of implementing and monitoring compliance programmes and advising on investigations during secondments at major corporates.

We are well versed in the principal international frameworks containing human rights requirements for businesses, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the IFC Performance Standards, the Equator Principles and ISO 26000. We advise clients in various contexts and industry sectors on corporate social responsibility issues, including human rights due diligence and assessments, compliance with international and national human rights laws, corporate reporting requirements and related strategic and risk management issues. We can also assist clients in handling human rights related complaints and investigations and in litigation before local courts and international tribunals.

Engagement in the business ethics and anti-corruption community

Our business ethics and anti-corruption practice is at the forefront of international initiatives which promote standards, dialogue and education in this field. Highlights include:

  • World Bank-appointed monitor – Sam Eastwood was appointed to act as compliance monitor to Macmillan Publishers as part of the company’s settlement with the World Bank.
  • British Standards Institute’s panel for Anti-Bribery Standardisation – we are the sole legal advisers on the British Standards Institute’s panel for Anti-Bribery Standardisation.
  • International Standards Organisation – we are the only legal practice represented on the project committee established by the ISO to consider the introduction of a standard on corruption.
  • Transparency International UK – we are represented on the board.
  • SAI Global – we were appointed to Legal Board, advising the business on its compliance training products.
  • University College London (UCL) Centre for Ethics and Law – we are among the founding members.

Our areas of work

Our business ethics and anti-corruption practice assists clients with all aspects of business ethics and anti-corruption compliance and investigations, including:

  • compliance counselling
  • investigations
  • criminal risks
  • litigation
  • risk assessment
  • compliance and integrity programmes
  • due diligence
  • anti-corruption training.

Our recent experience

A selection of key recent matters includes:

  • Advising a leading European telecoms company on the design of their global compliance programme, including addressing issues in former Soviet republics.
  • Advising an international oil company on its response to a US investigation involving a multi-jurisdictional analysis of possible corruption infringement by a significant contracting party.
  • Representing an individual in a criminal prosecution brought by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) concerning allegations of corruption relating to payments made outside the jurisdiction over a seven-year period. This is one of the largest prosecutions being undertaken by the SFO in relation to bribery and corruption at present, and follows an investigation undertaken in co-operation with the US Department of Justice and several EU countries. The case is being tried at the Crown Court and requires detailed forensic accountancy and expert evidence to be prepared for a full jury trial.
  • Advising a UK-listed energy company in multi-jurisdictional investigations and potential claims arising from international bribery issues in connection with overseas oil production sharing agreements and fraud allegations.
  • Advising a US / UK client in an anti-bribery due diligence investigation in respect of investments in logistical operations in Southern Africa.  We are also advising them on remediation and negotiations with UK and US regulators and criminal authorities.
  • Advising a global steel producer on the design and implementation of its global anti-corruption programme. This long-term project involved a Norton Rose secondee assisting the UK GC of the client.