Establishing Company Gift-Giving Guidelines

With increased regulatory oversight around the globe, companies’ external and internal gift-giving are under scrutiny. With the holiday season upon us, it is up to organizations, no matter what the size, to clearly state policies and leave no question about what is and what is not allowed. Establishing monetary limits for gifts given and received is also a good idea.

According to a report by Thomson Reuters:

While bribery and corruption charges are widespread, it’s important to note that bribery is not synonymous with gift-giving. When it comes to gift-giving, businesses cannot offer, promise or give anything of value, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business. Corporate gifts need to be carefully evaluated to ensure they do not appear to violate these prohibitions.

Internal gifting policies vary from company to company, and while there is no one-size-fits-all approach, it is extremely important that organizations have policies in place and that employees are aware of what those policies are. No matter how well-intentioned a gift, the potential exists that it falls outside of the appropriate boundaries.

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Organizations need to be clear about what types of gifts are acceptable and what are not.

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Both employers and employees should also be aware of what constitutes a bribe and what types of bribes to watch out for.

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Regulatory bodies are holding companies accountable, and depending on the countries involved, regulatory fines can range from prison terms to millions of dollars in fines.

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Oil and Politics: Brazil’s Petrobras Scandal

PetrobasLast month, we focused on Mexico and specifically the state-owned oil company Pemex as a risk for companies selling or investing into Latin America. We saw that Pemex represents a drag on Mexican fiscal accounts and is imposing losses on suppliers and investors. This month, we turn our gaze to Brazil: it is similar to Mexico in that it has a dominant, politically charged state-owned oil company, but different because the scale of the crisis is much more severe, as are the risks to suppliers and investors.

Brazil is undergoing a major economic and political crisis, and its state-owned oil company, Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras), is right at the center of the trouble. Petrobras shares some of the same challenges as Pemex: It started as an entirely state-owned firm, was used as an instrument of government policy from inception and took on enormous quantities of debt in recent times, exemplified by its $11 billion debt issue in 2013—the largest on record for emerging markets.

Brazil, however, recognizing earlier than Mexico the necessity of foreign investment for a viable oil industry, opened up the sector in 1997 and eventually reduced the government shareholding to 64% (direct plus indirect). Petrobras expanded into deepwater areas in Angola and the Gulf of Mexico and became one of the few national oil companies able to equally compete with companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and Total.

In 2014, information about the extent of corruption between Petrobras board members, various politicians and business executives not only came to light, but also sparked official investigations and arrests. President Dilma Rouseff has been temporarily removed from office pending a trial by the Senate. The official charge against her is manipulating the federal budget by directing state banks to support spending programs. She was the chair of Petrobras when the corruption allegedly occurred, however, and she and her party (Partido dos Trabalhadores or PT) are perceived by many as at least partly responsible for the scandal.

It is likely that Rouseff will be permanently removed from office within six months, but the uncertainty does not end there: As of this writing, two cabinet ministers have been removed from office, and six more are under investigation. Dozens of politicians and executives have been convicted in connection with the scandal, and prosecutors have recovered $795 million in stolen money. The economy of Brazil shrank 3.8% in 2015 and is projected to shrink another 3.5% in 2016. Moody’s downgraded Petrobras to Ba2 in December 2015, and S&P cut the sovereign rating to BB with a negative outlook in February. With the Zika virus now causing a global health emergency and the Olympics beginning in August, one wonders how many more stresses Brazil can take before serious political unrest breaks out.

Like with Pemex, the Petrobras crisis is increasing risks to suppliers already: There are trade credit insurance claims stemming from suppliers to Petrobras, and the wider Brazilian economic downturn (combined with the commodity price trough) is giving rise to other credit losses. But the Brazilian crisis goes well beyond trade credit risk. Brazil is a $2.2 trillion economy and one of the largest bond issuers in the emerging markets. As a result, this crisis has global implications: Eurasia Group has Brazil as one of its top 10 global risks for 2016.

Mexico and Brazil are not the only countries dependent on state-owned oil (or other natural resource) companies that are facing major challenges: Venezuela, Ecuador, Nigeria, Angola, Russia—the list goes on and on. In Brazil, however, there are some mitigating circumstances that reveal a silver lining. First, 85% of Brazil’s sovereign debt is held domestically, meaning it is less affected by currency depreciation and is easier to reschedule. Provided Brazil takes on some painful fiscal reforms, the country can dig itself out of the economic crisis. Secondly, so far, officials have been able to investigate and prosecute some of the parties responsible, despite the defendants being some of the more powerful people in Brazil.

There is hope that Brazil’s institutions will emerge all the stronger for being able to correct wrongdoing, which may set the stage for a more just Brazil and a better investment and credit risk environment in the long run. In the meantime, we are likely to see severe market and political volatility. It is a good idea to closely monitor your exposure in Brazil and in other countries dependent on highly indebted state-owned natural resource companies.

Avoid Corruption in Holiday Gift-Giving

With Thanksgiving and the holiday season upon us, gift-giving and compliance can be an issue for global companies, especially since more than 20% polled by Deloitte said their companies don’t assess the corruption risk of employee gift-giving.

While 20.4% of respondents don’t assess employee gift-giving corruption risk, more than 43.4% expect anti-corruption enforcement to rise in 2016, moneyaccording to a recent Deloitte poll of more than 1,600 professionals.

“As generous as the holidays make many feel, giving gifts that could be seen as bribes to non-U.S. government officials can result in fines, regulatory action and brand damage for multinational organizations,” said Bill Pollard, Deloitte Advisory partner at Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP. “Now is the time to conduct gift-giving compliance training and increase efforts to help ensure anti-corruption compliance through the holiday season. As global enforcement continues to increase, take a note from regulators and make sure your corporate records around travel, gifts and entertainment are transparent and show no ‘corrupt intent’—particularly when out-of-country government officials are recipients.”

The poll results found that anti-corruption policies for giving gifts to non-U.S. government officials run the gamut: 18.2% maintain a no-gift policy and provide no gifts to customers, 16.4% give only small company logo items, 15.7% restrict gift value and 6.1% use separate policies for non-U.S. government officials compared to other customers and third parties.

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The poll also found that 43.6% of companies plan to make improvements, while 12.7% do not and 43.7% do not know.

To uncover irregularities that point to corrupt intent and bribes disguised as gift-giving, some compliance, legal and internal audit teams use visualization and analytics tools. However, just 8.4% of respondents said their organizations effectively use visualization and data analytics technologies to support anti-corruption efforts. A full third of them (33.1%) didn’t use the tools at all.

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Leading practices to prevent and detect corruption in gift-giving include:

  • Set ground rules clearly — Describe the nature and type of acceptable gifts, payments, travel and entertainment. Escalate all gifts for government officials to compliance for review. Create an approval process with aggregate dollar limits. Define the disciplinary process for non-compliance.
  • Act globally — Ensure that rules are consistent not only with U.S. laws but local laws and customs. Translate that guidance into all appropriate languages in which your organization operates.
  • Keep gifts corporate — Give gifts that feature company logos, reflect the organization’s products and ensure they are intended for official — not personal — use (such as a business card holder).
  • Make gifting inclusive — Give gifts publicly and transparently, and involve teams as opposed to individuals (such as specialty baked goods for a team to share)
  • Prohibit cash or its equivalents, such as gift cards.

“Anti-corruption visualization and analytics tools can help address varied global anti-corruption laws and gift-giving customs, making multi-national anti-corruption management easier than before,” Pollard noted. “Nothing replaces the fundamental value strong anti-corruption professionals, policies and procedures do.”

Risk Link Roundup

Link Roundup

Here are a few recent articles highlighting some interesting issues that impact the world of risk and insurance. They include information about Hurricane Patricia’s impact on Mexico, corruption in China, the impact of women chosen for cybersecurity posts, some of the deadly dangers present in enclosed areas of ships and a survey about the level of social responsibility of chief executive officers in relation to the gender of their children.

Lessons of Past Disasters Helped Mexico Sidestep the Brunt of a Hurricane

Meteorologists called Hurricane Patricia one of the most ferocious ever seen in the Western Hemisphere, a monster bearing down with unprecedented energy on the Pacific coast of Mexico on Friday as residents and tourists evacuated or hunkered down in fear. But just hours later, the storm had passed over and, despite uprooted trees, landslides blocking some roads and the destruction of humble homes, there were no immediate reports of any deaths or damage to major infrastructure.

China Probes Graft in Angola Oil Deals

Wall Street Journal: Anticorruption investigators are zeroing in on oil deals in Angola by one of China’s biggest energy companies, part of President Xi Jinping’s nearly three-year probe into graft in the industry.

Why Corporate Boards are Picking Women to Fill Cybersecurity Posts

BloombergBusiness: Earlier this year, American International Group Inc. added Linda Mills to its board, attracted partly by her expertise in cybersecurity. In February, Wells Fargo & Co. selected Suzanne Vautrinot for its board for similar reasons. Before that, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. picked Janice Babiak. All directors, all focused on cybersecurity, all women.

Safety: The Unseen Killer

MarineLog: Accidents resulting in death or injury on board ships in enclosed spaces continue to occur at unacceptable rates. A shift in the approach to safety management of enclosed spaces on board ships is needed.

CEOs with Daughters Run More Socially Responsible Firms

Harvard Business Review: Henrik Cronqvist of the University of Miami and Frank Yu of China Europe International Business School compared the corporate social responsibility ratings of S&P 500 companies with information about the offspring of their chief executive officers. The researchers found that when a firm was led by a CEO with at least one daughter, it scored an average of 11.9% higher on CSR metrics and spent 13.4% more of its net income on CSR than the median.