Bribery Tops List as Number One Risk Concern of Global Companies for 2009

Supply chain integrity, economic downturn drive fundamental shift of concerns for New Year, Integrity Interactive study finds

Waltham, MA — December 30, 2008 — A new study of top corporate compliance concerns points to an international shift from inward-facing compliance concerns such as "financial integrity" to outward-focused concerns such as "anti-bribery requirements," the leading concern on this year's list, according to Integrity Interactive Corporation.

Integrity Interactive, which helps global corporations manage and reduce the risk of compliance failures, recently announced the results of the 2009 version of its annual study on the top 12 corporate compliance concerns expressed by global companies.

According to the study, companies are putting greater focus on outward-facing compliance concerns as they address how their actions affect the world in addition to focusing on preventing harm to themselves. This changing focus resulted in "conflicts of interests & gifts" and "product safety & liability" jumping towards the top of this year's list.

Recent headline-grabbing bribery cases involving politicians in Massachusetts and Alaska, major industrial conglomerates in Europe and now the spectacular bribery charges against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich illustrate that the concerns of global organizations reflected in the "2009 Top 12" list are accurately placed. It also demonstrates that global businesses are ahead of the curve and taking action, Integrity Interactive said.

Increased demand for supply chain integrity also shaped this year's Top 12 and drove business awareness of the potential ethics, compliance and corporate social responsibility risks faced from misconduct in a supply chain. Concern over new supply chain regulations, negative media exposure from potential supply chain scandals and conduct of business partners played a role in pushing "anti-bribery requirements" (number one), "conflicts of interest & gifts" (number two) and "product safety & liability" (number six) to the top half of this year's list.

"The spate of recent bribery and corruption cases involving prominent government officials shows that this same level of rigor is missing in the public sector. Ethics and compliance efforts in government remain weak," said Integrity CEO David Curran. "Drastic changes in our global economy and recognition of the importance of supply chain integrity have companies demonstrating a renewed commitment to the basic principles of corporate ethics and compliance. Integrity's new Top 12 research shows that companies across industry sectors and global regions are taking steps to ensure transparency, ethical behavior and quality controls."

The leading corporate ethics and compliance concerns for 2009 were:

  • Anti-Bribery Requirements: The top compliance concern of major corporations today, understanding anti-bribery requirements helps companies avoid the difficulties of organizations under investigation for charges relating to official corruption.
  • Conflicts of Interests & Gifts: Employers are concerned their employees know how to avoid conflicts of interest with suppliers, vendors and customers.
  • Antitrust Contact with Competitors: Global companies recognize the importance of educating executives, frequently those in sales and marketing, about not engaging in practices that could reduce competition or consumer choice.

Healthcare and Consumer Discretionary were among the leading industries addressing outward-focused ethics and compliance risks through organized compliance and ethics risk reduction programs. "Product Safety & Liability" was the greatest concern of Consumer Discretionary companies, while "Conflicts of Interest & Gifts" was most important in the Healthcare industry.

Inward-focused compliance concerns addressing the protection of corporate assets and reputation dropped to the bottom of this year's list. These concerns include: "Careful Communications," "Information Security" and "Financial Integrity," which ranked 10th, 11th, and 12th, respectively on the 2009 list. "Financial Integrity" experienced the most significant drop, falling from seventh place in 2008 to 12th in 2009. This is likely the result of an increased focus on the potential damage to outside stakeholders, for instance, vendors in the supply chain.

An interesting geographical trend was revealed in the 2009 study. Integrity Interactive observed a different global emphasis on two of the most important concerns, "Conflicts of Interest & Gifts" and "Product Safety & Liability." North America showed greater emphasis on "Conflicts of Interest & Gifts" (number four), while Europe was more concerned with "Product Safety & Liability." Both regions ranked "Anti-Bribery Requirements" as the top concern for 2009.

The full "2009 Top 12 Corporate Ethics and Compliance Concerns" list follows:

1. Anti-Bribery Requirements
2. Conflicts of Interest & Gifts
3. Antitrust Contact with Competitors
4. Mutual Respect
5. Records Management
6. Product Safety & Liability
7. Privacy
8. Proper Use of Computers
9. Export Controls
10. Careful Communication
11. Information Security
12. Financial Integrity

For the study, Integrity Interactive analyzed the course-completion records of more than three million employees at over 300 companies worldwide that have taken Integrity's online compliance training since January 2000. Companies surveyed operate globally and fall into three size categories: midsize (1,000 to 10,000 employees); large (10,000 to 90,000 employees); and very large (more than 90,000 employees).

The complete version of Integrity Interactive's "2009 Corporate Ethics & Compliance Study" is available for no charge by e-mailing [email protected]. This full-text version of the report includes a complete listing of the Top 12 compliance-training courses for 2009 for all companies surveyed; Top 12 lists for very large, large, and midsize companies; top five concerns by industry; and insight into emerging compliance risk-management trends and developments.