Willis Limited fined a thumping £6.895 million for anti-bribery, corruption, systems and controls failures

FSA action against Willis Limited shows that it is vital for firms not only to put in place appropriate anti-bribery and corruption systems and controls, but also to ensure that those systems and controls are adequately implemented and monitored.

The principles applied in the Willis case can just as readily be applied to other firms in all sectors. It is important to note that the UK Bribery Act applies to any firm doing business in or through the UK, i.e. it does not need to have a physical location in the UK.

This is a salutary warning to companies to implement robust Fraud, Bribery and ant-corruption (FCB) policies and procedures. Copenhagen Charter Certification can then provide exact guidance to assess and test Fraud, Bribery and Corruption policies and procedures to ensure that these are effective.

This is the biggest fine imposed by the FSA in relation to financial crime systems and controls to date.

11 Lessons can be learnt from what went wrong at Willis
  1. Payments made to overseas third parties could be used for corrupt purposes. This is an unacceptable risk
  2. Ensure that you establish and record an adequate commercial rationale to support your payments to overseas third parties
  3. Ensure that adequate due diligence is carried out on overseas third parties to evaluate the risk involved in doing business with them
  4. Review all relationships on a regular basis to confirm necessity and the need to continue with the relationship in light of your FCB policies
  5. Strengthen the control environment surrounding payments to overseas third parties. Create checklists based on geographical experience that can give rise to unacceptable risks if these payments could be used for corrupt purposes, including paying bribes.
  6. Monitor your staff to ensure that each time it is engaged with an overseas third party, that an adequate commercial rationale on FCB issues are documented and transactions recorded and that sufficient due diligence had been carried out after the fact
  7. Ensure that your staff is adequately trained in implementing new FCB policies.
  8. Ensure that senior management receives sufficient information about the performance of relevant FCB policies to allow them to assess whether bribery and corruption risks were being mitigated effectively
  9. Take the appropriate steps to ensure that payments made to overseas third parties are not being used for corrupt purposes. This is particularly disappointing as oversight bodies have repeatedly communicated with the industry on this issue and have previously taken enforcement action for failings in this area
  10. Ensure that adequate due diligence was carried out on overseas third parties to evaluate the FCB risk involved in doing business with them based on their track record
  11. Review relationships on a regular basis to confirm whether it is necessary and appropriate to continue with the relationship
  12. Monitor your staff and transactions to ensure that adequate commercial rationale for doing business is documented and sufficient due diligence carried out.

For Additional information:
  • The Final Notice for Willis Limited can be found on the FSA website.
  • The FSA sent out an industry wide letter to commercial insurance intermediaries in November 2007 reminding them of their regulatory obligations in relation to bribery and corruption risks.
  • In January 2009, the FSA fined Aon Limited £5.25 million for failing to take reasonable care to establish and maintain effective systems and controls to counter the risks of bribery and corruption associated with making payments to overseas firms and individuals.
  • In May 2010, the FSA published the results of its thematic review into the adequacy of the systems and controls in place at a number of commercial insurance intermediary firms for preventing illicit payments and inducements particularly through the use of overseas third parties.
  • In June 2011, the FSA launched a consultation on its financial crime guide, which contains good and poor practice for firms on anti-bribery and corruption systems and controls. The consultation closes on 21 September 2011.
  • The FSA regulates the financial services industry and has four objectives under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000: maintaining market confidence; securing the appropriate degree of protection for consumers; fighting financial crime; and contributing to the protection and enhancement of the stability of the UK financial system.