The majority of UK companies are putting profits ahead of their efforts to prevent bribery and corruption, research by City firm Hogan Lovells suggests.

According to the study, based on interviews with more than 600 chief compliance officers (COO), 57% say that sales pressures and incentives are the biggest challenges when trying to reduce the risk of bribery and corruption. 

Meanwhile 45% of compliance teams in the UK say that anti-bribery and corruption are not chief executives' top priorities. The study also showed that almost half (49%) of UK chief executives are not willing to walk away from a contract where there is a high bribery or corruption risk.

Under half (47%) say that anti-bribery and corruption is a standing item on their company’s board agenda. This compares to 56% globally.

The report said the fact that only 39% of CCOs report directly to the chief executive, instead reporting to the general counsel or chief financial officer, could impact on how seriously the rest of the organisation takes compliance.

Over half (58%) of CCOs say their advice to the chief executive gets filtered by others, making it almost impossible for chief executives to make informed decisions.

The report said this ‘raises structural questions as to whether companies need to reconsider reporting lines in light of a rapid increase in legal exposure in this area’.

The study was published as government officials from around the world met in London for today’s anti-corruption summit.

Crispin Rapinet, global head of investigations, white collar and fraud at Hogan Lovells said that the UK was lagging behind Asia, the US and European countries such as France.

He said: ‘It’s not one of the top priorities for nearly half of CEOs [in the UK], who are less likely than their overseas competitors to walk away from a contract with a high bribery and corruption risk.’

He added that the biggest challenge for multinationals is to translate anti-bribery and corruption policies into effective guidance.

‘With regulators and prosecutors around the world uniting in the battle against bribery and corruption, and enforcement growing - even in countries where historically there has been minimal or no enforcement - multinational organisations cannot leave their survival up to chance.

‘They must take proactive steps to make it abundantly clear that anti-bribery and corruption is in their company’s DNA.’

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