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Supply Chain Risks

Third-Party Reputational Risk

Compliance officials rank reputational risks posed by third-party partners as their top risk, and one-third expect the risks of bribery and corruption to increase.
By: | March 30, 2017 • 5 min read

Companies are increasingly concerned that third-party partners could be subject to bribery and corruption – which could then come back to haunt the organization in more ways than one.

Joseph Spinelli, senior managing director at Kroll, said that the vast majority of regulatory actions alleging corruption brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission usually involve third parties.

And in many of those cases, global organizations had not sufficiently vetted their third parties.

Joseph Spinelli, senior managing director, Kroll

“It’s interesting – no matter where I go, no matter who I speak with, chief compliance officers especially, I ask them what’s the one thing that keeps you up at night, and they all say “third party risk’,” Spinelli said.

“That includes suppliers, distributors, joint venture partners, agents – any type of third party.”

Compliance officials see reputational risks posed by third parties as their top risk, according to Kroll’s recently released “2017 Anti-Bribery & Corruption Benchmarking Report” in conjunction with the Ethisphere Institute.

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In 2016, that risk was No. 7 on the list, said Steven Bock, managing director and head of operations and research with Kroll’s compliance practice.

“With media scrutiny providing instant information, corporate entities are looked at not solely for what they do, but also what they do with their affiliations with regards to human trafficking, illegal child labor  – whatever the risk issues may be,” Bock said.

Plus, more than one-third (35 percent) of the respondents expect their risks from bribery and corruption to increase, while 57 percent expect the level of risk to remain the same as last year.

Top risks are expected from third party violations (40 percent), a complex global regulatory environment (14 percent), and employees making improper payments (12 percent).

According to the report, 40 percent of the respondents had more than 1,000 third parties and 29 percent had more than 5,000.

Spinelli said that global organizations need to risk-rank third parties into categories of high, medium, and low risk.

“For those third parties that fall into the high-risk category, it’s incumbent for global organizations to ensure enhanced due diligence is conducted,” Spinelli said. “This will require actual boots on the ground, with people who can speak the language, know the culture, and can ascertain all the relevant information.”

Steven Bock, managing director and head of operations and research, Kroll compliance practice

Kroll recommends that compliance officials employ a tiered screening program for third parties. If issues turn up on an initial screening, a company can then “dig deeper” to determine levels of concern, similar to a system that uses green, amber and red light symbols as triggers.

“If the third party answers truthfully and there are no issues, then it’s a green light to proceed further,” Bock said.

“If it’s amber, the company can decide whether it should proceed, and a red light would cause the company to make an immediate stop and not proceed any further without a more costly and detailed due diligence effort to understand whether the initial questions are as problematic as they seem on face value.”

The report also highlighted the importance of monitoring third parties after initial screening. More than half (55 percent) of the respondents discovered a problem with their third party’s qualifications or associations, after an initial screening.

Respondents attributed that to many factors, including misconduct that arose subsequent to the time of initial on-boarding, non-compliant behavior that was concealed or not disclosed by third parties, and red flags not discovered because of inadequate initial screening.

“I think we’ve gotten a clear message from these respondents that, from their perspective, monitoring is now a key component to an overall comprehensive and successful due diligence program,” Bock said.

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Companies must also consider the third-party firm’s reputation, it’s relationship with foreign officials – and the company’s actual business rationale for using that company, he said.

According to the report, however, nearly half (49 percent) of the respondents said they did not have enough resources to support anti-corruption efforts, and one-third had a greater level of concern about personal liability than they had the prior year.

Many of the surveyed compliance officers noted they were receiving support from their chief financial officers and finance teams.

“This is not surprising, as the chief financial officer and the finance team often have insight into the operations of multinational enterprises through their dealings with complex cross-border accounting controls and awareness of customs regarding local payment terms,” the report’s authors wrote.

Third parties must understand “there’s a zero tolerance for bribery and corruption when doing business on the organization’s behalf.” – Joseph Spinelli, senior managing director, Kroll

Respondents were also stepping up the compliance expertise and activities of board members as a result of increasing regulatory expectations by the DOJ, according to the report.

The engagement of senior leadership in anti-bribery and corruption efforts is on the rise, with more than half (51 percent) of respondents saying that senior leadership at their organization is “highly engaged,” a 4 percentage point increase over what respondents said in last year’s survey.

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Third parties must understand “there’s a zero tolerance for bribery and corruption when doing business on the organization’s behalf,” Spinelli said.

Contractual arrangements are a big part of that, he said, and should specifically describe expected duties, performance of duties, payment terms and audit rights, he said. In addition, third parties should be trained periodically on – and certify that they understand – the anti-bribery and corruption compliance program, which is now mandated by the DOJ.

“Global organizations should know that the third party is actually performing the work, and what compensation the third party is receiving for that work.”

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in California. She has more than two decades of journalism experience and expertise in financial writing. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Cyber Resilience

No, Seriously. You Need a Comprehensive Cyber Incident Response Plan Before It’s Too Late.

Awareness of cyber risk is increasing, but some companies may be neglecting to prepare adequate response plans that could save them millions. 
By: | June 1, 2018 • 7 min read

To minimize the financial and reputational damage from a cyber attack, it is absolutely critical that businesses have a cyber incident response plan.

“Sadly, not all yet do,” said David Legassick, head of life sciences, tech and cyber, CNA Hardy.

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In the event of a breach, a company must be able to quickly identify and contain the problem, assess the level of impact, communicate internally and externally, recover where possible any lost data or functionality needed to resume business operations and act quickly to manage potential reputational risk.

This can only be achieved with help from the right external experts and the design and practice of a well-honed internal response.

The first step a company must take, said Legassick, is to understand its cyber exposures through asset identification, classification, risk assessment and protection measures, both technological and human.

According to Raf Sanchez, international breach response manager, Beazley, cyber-response plans should be flexible and applicable to a wide range of incidents, “not just a list of consecutive steps.”

They also should bring together key stakeholders and specify end goals.

Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions

With bad actors becoming increasingly sophisticated and often acting in groups, attack vectors can hit companies from multiple angles simultaneously, meaning a holistic approach is essential, agreed Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions.

“Collaboration is key — you have to take silos down and work in a cross-functional manner.”

This means assembling a response team including individuals from IT, legal, operations, risk management, HR, finance and the board — each of whom must be well drilled in their responsibilities in the event of a breach.

“You can’t pick your players on the day of the game,” said Hogg. “Response times are critical, so speed and timing are of the essence. You should also have a very clear communication plan to keep the CEO and board of directors informed of recommended courses of action and timing expectations.”

People on the incident response team must have sufficient technical skills and access to critical third parties to be able to make decisions and move to contain incidents fast. Knowledge of the company’s data and network topology is also key, said Legassick.

“Perhaps most important of all,” he added, “is to capture in detail how, when, where and why an incident occurred so there is a feedback loop that ensures each threat makes the cyber defense stronger.”

Cyber insurance can play a key role by providing a range of experts such as forensic analysts to help manage a cyber breach quickly and effectively (as well as PR and legal help). However, the learning process should begin before a breach occurs.

Practice Makes Perfect

“Any incident response plan is only as strong as the practice that goes into it,” explained Mike Peters, vice president, IT, RIMS — who also conducts stress testing through his firm Sentinel Cyber Defense Advisors.

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Unless companies have an ethical hacker or certified information security officer on board who can conduct sophisticated simulated attacks, Peters recommended they hire third-party experts to test their networks for weaknesses, remediate these issues and retest again for vulnerabilities that haven’t been patched or have newly appeared.

“You need to plan for every type of threat that’s out there,” he added.

Hogg agreed that bringing third parties in to conduct tests brings “fresh thinking, best practice and cross-pollination of learnings from testing plans across a multitude of industries and enterprises.”

“Collaboration is key — you have to take silos down and work in a cross-functional manner.” — Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions

Legassick added that companies should test their plans at least annually, updating procedures whenever there is a significant change in business activity, technology or location.

“As companies expand, cyber security is not always front of mind, but new operations and territories all expose a company to new risks.”

For smaller companies that might not have the resources or the expertise to develop an internal cyber response plan from whole cloth, some carriers offer their own cyber risk resources online.

Evan Fenaroli, an underwriting product manager with the Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY), said his company hosts an eRiskHub, which gives PHLY clients a place to start looking for cyber event response answers.

That includes access to a pool of attorneys who can guide company executives in creating a plan.

“It’s something at the highest level that needs to be a priority,” Fenaroli said. For those just getting started, Fenaroli provided a checklist for consideration:

  • Purchase cyber insurance, read the policy and understand its notice requirements.
  • Work with an attorney to develop a cyber event response plan that you can customize to your business.
  • Identify stakeholders within the company who will own the plan and its execution.
  • Find outside forensics experts that the company can call in an emergency.
  • Identify a public relations expert who can be called in the case of an event that could be leaked to the press or otherwise become newsworthy.

“When all of these things fall into place, the outcome is far better in that there isn’t a panic,” said Fenaroli, who, like others, recommends the plan be tested at least annually.

Cyber’s Physical Threat

With the digital and physical worlds converging due to the rise of the Internet of Things, Hogg reminded companies: “You can’t just test in the virtual world — testing physical end-point security is critical too.”

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How that testing is communicated to underwriters should also be a key focus, said Rich DePiero, head of cyber, North America, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

Don’t just report on what went well; it’s far more believable for an underwriter to hear what didn’t go well, he said.

“If I hear a client say it is perfect and then I look at some of the results of the responses to breaches last year, there is a disconnect. Help us understand what you learned and what you worked out. You want things to fail during these incident response tests, because that is how we learn,” he explained.

“Bringing in these outside firms, detailing what they learned and defining roles and responsibilities in the event of an incident is really the best practice, and we are seeing more and more companies do that.”

Support from the Board

Good cyber protection is built around a combination of process, technology, learning and people. While not every cyber incident needs to be reported to the boardroom, senior management has a key role in creating a culture of planning and risk awareness.

David Legassick, head of life sciences, tech and cyber, CNA Hardy

“Cyber is a boardroom risk. If it is not taken seriously at boardroom level, you are more than likely to suffer a network breach,” Legassick said.

However, getting board buy-in or buy-in from the C-suite is not always easy.

“C-suite executives often put off testing crisis plans as they get in the way of the day job. The irony here is obvious given how disruptive an incident can be,” said Sanchez.

“The C-suite must demonstrate its support for incident response planning and that it expects staff at all levels of the organization to play their part in recovering from serious incidents.”

“What these people need from the board is support,” said Jill Salmon, New York-based vice president, head of cyber/tech/MPL, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

“I don’t know that the information security folks are looking for direction from the board as much as they are looking for support from a resources standpoint and a visibility standpoint.

“They’ve got to be aware of what they need and they need to have the money to be able to build it up to that level,” she said.

Without that support, according to Legassick, failure to empower and encourage the IT team to manage cyber threats holistically through integration with the rest of the organization, particularly risk managers, becomes a common mistake.

He also warned that “blame culture” can prevent staff from escalating problems to management in a timely manner.

Collaboration and Communication

Given that cyber incident response truly is a team effort, it is therefore essential that a culture of collaboration, preparation and practice is embedded from the top down.

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One of the biggest tripping points for companies — and an area that has done the most damage from a reputational perspective — is in how quickly and effectively the company communicates to the public in the aftermath of a cyber event.

Salmon said of all the cyber incident response plans she has seen, the companies that have impressed her most are those that have written mock press releases and rehearsed how they are going to respond to the media in the aftermath of an event.

“We have seen so many companies trip up in that regard,” she said. “There have been examples of companies taking too long and then not explaining why it took them so long. It’s like any other crisis — the way that you are communicating it to the public is really important.” &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected] Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]