Regulatory Compliance

Clampdown on Corruption

Amid anti-bribery reform, corruption is more aggressively investigated around the world.
By: | December 14, 2017 • 6 min read

If one doubts that progress is being made in anti-corruption enforcement in some of the world’s corruption hotspots, look no further than Brazil.

In a bid to clean up the country’s energy sector, investigators unearthed a network of bribery and corruption that would, over three years, lead to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, a nine-year jail term for her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the implication of 80 of Brazil’s political and business elite.

Corina Monaghan, senior vice president of credit, political, and security risk improvement, JLT Specialty USA

While this example is glaring and high-profile, the anti-corruption landscape is undoubtedly becoming more stringent around the world. China, for example, expanded the scope of its anti-corruption watchdog in October, while France this year introduced a game-changing ‘Sapin II’ framework.

Other countries are becoming more watchful, including developing markets with a history of corruption.

Multinational companies could find themselves facing heavy penalties if they fail to keep up with compliance demands. However, corruption is often deeply culturally rooted and traps remain.

According to John Kocoras, partner with the law firm McDermott, Will and Emery, the most susceptible companies are those that operate in countries where bribery is part of the business landscape, or in highly regulated industries involved in sales to foreign government agencies and government-owned corporations.

“In short, the more government touch points a company has, typically the greater the risk of anti-corruption compliance challenges,” he warned.

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“Like crime, corruption cannot be totally avoided,” said Corina Monaghan, senior vice president of credit, political, and security risk improvement, JLT Specialty USA.

“What remains to be seen is whether these law changes are transparent and enforced consistently enough for foreign investors to clearly know what constitutes breaching the law,” she added.

“When there are gray areas in bureaucracy, this creates room for corruption.”

Legal Landscape

It is, of course, essential for multinational companies to get to know local conditions as comprehensively as possible in every jurisdiction in which they operate. That’s particularly true of systems, though the law can sometimes work differently in theory and practice.

Monaghan advises clients to find out who the key players and counterparties are in the sector in which they operate, including the government ministry with whom they’ll be dealing.

“If there are elections coming up, find out who may be elected and how this could affect your business,” she added.

“If your employees are colluding with third parties to create slush funds to further the business agenda, you have got a serious risk on your hands — and collusion is definitely rife.” — Annabel Reoch, head of anti-bribery and corruption, KPMG

However, even a granular knowledge of local legislation will only get multi-national companies so far, as they could run afoul of domestic law even if they do not break the rules overseas.

U.S.-listed companies, for example, are obligated to maintain accurate books and records. They also are obligated to enforce effective internal control. Failing to do so in a foreign operation could cause liability in the U.S.

“A substantial change over the last 10 years is our ability to address anti-corruption issues outside of the U.S.,” said Kocoras.

“This used to be seen as a U.S. concern, with the tail wagging the dog as far as multinational operations were concerned, but now cross-border conversations have become much more routine, which is good for serious compliance efforts,” he added.

“Considering the amount of fines we’re seeing and government interest in increasing fair competition, we expect that trend to continue.”

Governments also are increasingly willing to work together to investigate and resolve cross-border corruption claims.

In September, for example, Swedish, Dutch and U.S. authorities reaped the rewards of a combined effort when Nordic telecom giant Telia agreed to pay nearly $1 billion in penalties after admitting to paying more than $331 million in bribes to an Uzbek government official.

Formal, Effective Compliance

The most fundamental step a company can take to comply with the growing patchwork of international anti-corruption laws is to implement a formal compliance framework.

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“Although anti-bribery laws and enforcement may differ from one place to another, there are common elements to an effective program that are important to legal compliance and good business,” said Kocoras.

This starts with prohibiting anyone within the organization from paying or receiving bribes to or from officials in either the public or private sectors. Bribery is not limited to cash payments and can vary in nature from sector to sector, from nepotistic hiring practices to extravagant entertainment. The perception of bribery also varies significantly between cultures and  legal systems.

“It makes very good business sense to adopt a broad view of what constitutes a bribe, both to ensure compliance and protect the business,” Kocoras advised.

“Companies with operations around the world should enact policies and procedures that address the strictest standards they might face.”

According to Annabel Reoch, head of anti-bribery and corruption for KPMG in the UK, middlemen or ‘introducers’ are often at the heart of the problem.

“One of the biggest risks is third parties operating on your behalf. They may act unethically or make payments on your behalf to obtain or retain business,” she explained.

“If your employees are colluding with third parties to create slush funds to further the business agenda, you have got a serious risk on your hands — and collusion is definitely rife.”

KPMG’s 2015 Global Anti-Bribery and Corruption (ABC) survey found that 70 percent of all corruption cases involved collusion and 61 percent included an individual from within the company itself.

“It is essential to know who you are doing business with, to conduct  due diligence on those third parties, understand the risks and the business justification of working with the parties, and to have proper contract protections in place,” said Reoch.

Creating a More Ethical Culture

In the future, predictive data analytics that identify trends in bribery and corruption activity could help companies stay one step ahead of potentially risky behavior, though Reoch said this requires the complex triangulation of multiple data points.

John Kocoras, partner, McDermott, Will and Emery

“For example, you might look at the big contracts you’re tendering for, the employees involved in that tendering process and their gift, entertainment and hospitality activity and also any potential conflicts of interest.

You might look also at new third parties on-boarded around the time of that tender and the average commission payment and the outcome of any due diligence conducted,” she explained.

“Pinning those data points together could raise a red flag that proactively tells you there could be some problems in a particular region, rather than reacting after an incident.”

The most effective steps a company can take, she said, are to make sure its staff on the front lines knows the rules, procedures are embedded in the operations of those countries, and accountability for managing the risk is transferred to the staff working on the ground overseas.

“In remote jurisdictions, individual employees often claim they didn’t understand the process they were supposed to follow, they weren’t given proper training and that they didn’t recognize there was a problem because this is the way business is done where they are.

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When operating really effectively, compliance has handed over that responsibility into the first line of defense so that they are the ones owning and managing that risk,” Reoch explained.

But Reoch added that while putting functions, controls and procedures in place is necessary for compliance, “delivering the right training to raise awareness, accountability and appreciation of bribery and corruption risk goes a lot further.”

“Capturing broad prohibitions on bribery and effective internal controls within a coherent policy is very important,” added Kocoras.

“But communication of that policy and compliance issues on all levels and with foreign operations is essential.” &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

R&I Profile

Achieving Balance

XL Catlin’s Denise Balan stays calm and focused when faced with crisis.
By: | January 10, 2018 • 6 min read

In the high-stress scenario of kidnap or ransom, the first image that comes to mind isn’t necessarily a yoga mat — at least, not for most.

But Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin, who practices yoga every day, would swear by it.

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“I looked at these opposing aspects of my life,” she said. “Yoga is about focus, balance, clarity of intent. In a moment of stress, how do you respond? The more clarity and calmness you maintain, the better positioned you are to provide assistance in moments of crisis.

“Nobody wants to be speaking to a frenetic person when either dealing with a dangerous situation or planning for prevention of a situation,” she added.

“There’s a poem by [Rudyard] Kipling on that,” added Balan’s colleague Ben Tucker. “What it boils down to is: If you can remain calm, you can manage through a crisis a lot better.”

Tucker, who works side by side with Balan as head of U.S. terrorism and political violence, XL Catlin, has seen how yoga influences his colleague.

“The way Denise interacts with stakeholders in this process — she is very professional and calm in the approach she takes.”

Yin and Yang

Sometimes seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected. In Balan’s life, yoga and K&R have become her yin and yang.

She entered the insurance world after earning a juris doctor degree and practicing law for a few years. The switch came, she said, when Balan realized she wasn’t enjoying her time as a commercial litigator.

Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

In her new role, she was able to use her legal background to manage litigation at AIG, where her transition from law to insurance took place. She started her insurance career in the environmental sector.

In a chance meeting in 2007, Balan met with crisis management underwriters who told her about kidnap and ransom products.

She was hooked.

Because of her background in yoga, Balan liked the crisis management side of the job. Being able to bring the calmness and clearness of intent she practiced during yoga into assisting clients in planning for crisis management piqued her interest.

She then joined XL Catlin in July 2013, where she built the K&R team.

As she became more immersed in her field, Balan began to notice something: The principles she learned in yoga were the same principles ex-military and ex-law enforcement practiced when called to a K&R-related crisis.

She said, “They have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.”

“K&R responders have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

Many understand yoga to be, in itself, one type of meditation, but yoga actually encompasses a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices. Each is a discipline. Some forms of yoga focus on movement and breathing, others focus on posture and technique. Some yoga is meant to relax the mind and create a sense of calmness; other yoga types make participants sweat.

After having her second child and working full-time, Balan wanted to find something physical and relaxing for herself; a friend suggested yoga. During her first lesson, Balan said she was enamored with it.

“I felt like I’d done it all my life.”

She dove into the philosophy of yoga, adopting the practice into her daily routine. Every morning, whether Balan is in her Long Island home or on a business trip, she pulls out her yoga mat to practice.

“I always travel with my mat,” she said. “Daily practice is the simplest form of connection to routine to maintain my balance — physically and mentally.”

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She said the strangest place she has ever practiced was in Lisbon. She was on a very narrow balcony with a bird feeder swarming with sparrows overhead.

After years of studying and practicing, Balan is considered a yogi — someone who is highly proficient in yoga. She attends annual retreats with her yoga group, where she is able to rejuvenate, ready to tackle any K&R event when she returns.

In 2016, Balan visited Tuscany, Italy, where she learned the practice of yoga nidra, a very deep form of meditation. It’s described as the “going-to-sleep stage” — a type of yoga that brings participants to a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping.

“It awakens a different part of your brain,” Balan commented. “Orally describing it doesn’t quite do it justice. One has to practice Nidra to fully understand the effect it has on your being.”

Keeping a level head during a crisis is key in their line of business, Tucker said. He can attest to the benefit of having a yogi on board.

“I’ve seen her run table-top exercises where there is this group of people in a room and they run an exercise, a simulation of a kidnap incident. Denise is very committed to what we’re doing,” said Tucker.

“She brings that energy. She doesn’t get flustered by much.”

Building a K&R Program

When Balan joined XL Catlin, she was tasked with creating the K&R team.

Balan during a retreat in Sicily, Italy, 2017

She spent time researching and analyzing what clients would want in their K&R coverage. What stuck out most to Balan was the fact that, in these situations, the decision to purchase kidnap and ransom cover is rarely made because of desire for reimbursement of money.

“I asked why people buy this type of coverage. The answer was for the security responders,” she said.

“These are the people who sit with the family. They’re similar to psychologists or priests,” Balan further explained. “Corporations can afford to pay ransom. They buy [K&R] because it gives them access to these trained and dedicated professionals who not only provide negotiation advice, but actually sit with a victim’s family, engaging deep levels of emotional investment.”

“I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

Balan described these responders as people having total clarity of purpose, setting their intentions to resolve a crisis — a practice at the very heart of yoga. She knew XL Catlin’s new kidnap program would put stock in their responders.

“I’ve worked closely with the responders to better understand what they can do for our clientele. These are the people who run into danger — warrior hearts married to dedication to our clients’ best interests.”

But K&R is more than fast-paced crisis and quick thinking; Balan also spent a good deal of time writing the K&R form and getting the company’s resources in order. This was a huge task to tackle when creating the program from the ground up.

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“A lot of my day-to-day is speaking with brokers and finding ways to enhance our product,” she said.

After a few months, she was able to hire the company’s first K&R underwriter. From there, the program has grown. It’s left her feeling professionally rewarded.

“People don’t often get that opportunity to build something up from scratch,” she said. “It’s been an amazing experience — rewarding and fun.”

“She brings groups of people together,” said Tucker. “She’s created a positive environment.”

Balan’s yogi nature extends beyond the office walls, too. Her pride and joy, she said, are her kids. And while it may seem like two large parts of her life are opposite in nature, Balan’s achieved balance through her passions.

“[Yoga] has given me the ability to see beyond only one aspect of any situation” she said. “I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” &

Autumn Heisler is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]