International, MENA (Middle East & North Africa) - Written by on Friday, October 14, 2011 0:11 - 0 Comments

Regime change & the Arab Spring sparks SFO interest & provokes tough talk

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The SFO consider that the Arab Spring and regime change generally will be a rich seam for them to mine from a bribery enforcement perspective.

We predicted as much in the Spring in a series of articles including this one from March.

In recent speeches Richard Alderman has sent his clearest signal that he is actively pursuing this line of investigation.

Speaking in Washington last week he said:

“I have been following, like many others, the events of the Arab Spring with the very greatest of interest…Corporations are no doubt thinking about the implications of this both for what they have done in the past and also for the future.”

He went on to say:

“You will not be surprised, for example, to hear that we looking through Wikileaks and the other information becoming available as a result of the Arab Spring in order to see what corporations have been doing over a period of years. We are going to be very interested in the sorts of deals that are going to come to light and I am sure that this will be a fruitful source of work for us…’

There is clear precedent for this, most recently arising from the fall out following the Iraq invasion which spawned a series of cases on both sides of the Atlantic.

We wrote about the opportunity for organisations who have had exposure in those jurisdictions to review the position and, if anything was found or suspected, to Self Report and potentially achieve a better outcome some time ago.

For organisations who harbour bribery secrets Richard Alderman’s message is stark:

“The message from me is that if corporations are worrying about this, then they ought to come and talk to us now rather than wait for the dawn raid.”

The future

Looking forward the SFO director urged organisations to factor in the possibility of regime change into their risk assessments.

Pointedly Mr. Alderman remarked: “one of the questions to ask is what your contracts will look like in the event of regime change.   Are corporations ready for the reputational issues that can arise when the new regime gives publicity and scrutiny to previous arrangements? How is the likelihood of that being factored in to the risk assessments that you need to do? …I emphasise to corporations in my discussions now that they must be assessing these political risks and that they must be part of their overall risk assessment. It strengthens the point that I make consistently to corporations that ultimately the only safe way of doing business is not to pay bribes.”

Image © Crown Copyright 2011

 

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