Global report on Risks and Threats of Corruption launched


Global report on the risks and threats of corruption and the legal profession launched

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The IBA, in cooperation with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), launched a global report entitled Risks and Threats of Corruption and the Legal Profession, based on the results of a major international survey conducted during the summer of 2010. The report is part of the Anti-Corruption Strategy for the Legal Profession, an initiative led by these organisations to understand the impact of international anti-corruption instruments and associated implementing legislation with extraterritorial application on the legal practice, and to arm lawyers with the necessary tools and knowledge to identify, address and resolve potential threats to the integrity of the legal profession caused by corruption.

The Report was presented on 4 October at the 2010 IBA Annual Conference in Vancouver, in the session Risks and Threats of Corruption and the Legal Profession. There was a roundtable in which the major findings were discussed by a panel of international experts such as Dimitri Vlassis, Head of the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch at the UNODC; Mark Mendelsohn, former Deputy Chief of the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice and Partner at Paul Weiss; Mike Schwartz, Global Head of Anti-Corruption and Bribery at KPMG; Homer Moyer, Partner at Miller & Chevalier and Chair of the IBA Anti-Corruption Committee; Tomas Lindholm, Partner at Lindholm and Wallgren; and Gonzalo Guzman, IBA Senior Staff Lawyer.

This critical report was based on the results of a major international survey conducted by the IBA and on in-house research in the area. The survey included responses from 642 legal professionals in 95 jurisdictions. The main objectives of the survey were: 

  • to explore the level of awareness of the risks of corruption;
  • to investigate the legal profession’s awareness of the tools available to mitigate these risks;
  • and to examine the role bar associations, law societies and law firms have in ensuring the legal profession is equipped to engage effectively in the international fight against corruption.

The survey was described by Fernando Pelaez-Pier, IBA President as ‘the first step in a global effort to help understand and address the different challenges faced by legal professionals as a result of the threats of corruption’. ‘The organisations involved in the Strategy have understood that, by joining forces together, the success of a much needed industry-wide approach to international corruption will be guaranteed’, Mr Pelaez-Pier added.

Although survey results varied substantially from region to region, the main findings are as follows:

  • Nearly half of all respondents stated corruption was an issue in the legal profession in their own jurisdiction. The proportion was even higher – over 70 per cent – in the following regions: CIS, Africa, Latin America and Baltic & East Europe.
  • More than a fifth of respondents said they have or may have been approached to act as an agent or middleman in a transaction that could reasonably be suspected to involve international corruption. Nearly a third of respondents said a legal professional they know has been involved in international corruption offences.
  • Nearly 30 per cent of respondents said they had lost business to corrupt law firms or individuals who have engaged in international bribery and corruption.
  • Nearly 40 per cent of respondents had never heard of the major international instruments that make up the international anti-corruption regulatory framework, such as the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the UN Convention against Corruption.
  • The level of awareness of the existence of anti-corruption extraterritorial legislation is higher than that of the international legal instruments: 60 per cent of survey respondents were aware of the FCPA and its scope, while 30 per cent were aware of the UK Bribery Act and its scope.
  • A total of 42 per cent of respondents agreed that national anti-corruption laws and regulations were effective in preventing both inbound and outbound international corruption compared to five years ago.
  • Younger respondents (aged 20 to 30 years) were, on average, less aware of international anti-corruption laws and national legislation than older respondents.
  • Only 43 per cent of respondents recognised that their bar associations provide some kind of anti-corruption guidance for legal practitioners. Of these, only a third said that such guidance specifically addresses the issue of international corruption.
  • Less than 40 per cent of respondents said anti-corruption was a priority at their law firm and just under a third said that their firms do not have a clear and specific anti-corruption policy.
  • More than two-thirds of respondents said their law firms had not been subject to anti-corruption or anti-money laundering due diligence conducted by foreign clients.

‘International instruments like the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention form the basis for anti-bribery laws and enforcement actions the world over – lawyers need to be aware of how they can be affected in their own practice and of the tools that are available to assist with compliance’, said Nicola Bonucci, Director for Legal Affairs at the OECD.

The report also provided three significant recommendations based on the survey results. First, further research should be undertaken into the existence of international corruption in the legal profession. Second, the legal profession needs to collectively pursue more industry-wide anti-corruption awareness-raising and training activities. Finally, compliance programmes for legal professionals must include measures to combat bribery and international corruption and be widely disseminated through the firm.

Dimitri Vlassis, Head of the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch at UNODC, said ‘UNODC supports the initiative because of its potential to equip the legal profession with the tools it needs to perform its crucial mission. We were taken aback by the lack of crucial knowledge among legal professionals of key international instruments against corruption. It is, therefore, very important that these recommendations are already being implemented. The first set of in-country trainings is underway in Latin America and next year the programme will expand to other regions of the world. We all understand the importance of acting without delay to put legal professionals at the forefront of the anti-corruption movement. We need lawyers to act as leaders in this battle.’

In-country training sessions for private practitioners have already taken place in Chile, Argentina and Mexico and have been extremely successful reaching more than 90 law firms, local bar associations and law schools. Further training sessions in Peru and Colombia are scheduled to take place on 16 and 18 November, respectively. Next year training sessions will take place in other Latin American, Asian and Eastern European jurisdictions, eventually reaching all regions of the world by 2012. In addition to these efforts, the Strategy will continue to work closely with bar associations and legal professionals with the aim of paving the way for other tangible efforts that help lawyers to prevent and confront corruption.

The full survey report and more information on the ‘Anti-Corruption Strategy for the Legal Profession’ is available online at www.anticorruptionstrategy.org.

For more information please contact Gonzalo Guzman, Senior Staff Lawyer, IBA Legal Projects Team at gonzalo.guzman@int-bar.org.