Bloomberg News

Australia’s Enforcement of Bribery Laws Slack, Executives Say

November 23, 2011

Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Australia isn’t doing enough to enforce anti-bribery laws, according to a majority of company executives surveyed by Baker & McKenzie LLP in a report by the world’s second-largest law firm by number of lawyers.

The survey of 88 executives involved in their companies’ approach to anti-bribery and corruption found 64 percent said Australian laws weren’t adequately enforced even as more than a quarter identified potential issues of graft, according to the report released yesterday. Neither the executives nor the companies are named in the report.

“Australia’s half asleep,” Mini vandePol, Baker & McKenzie’s head of Asia Pacific Regional Dispute Resolution Group, wrote in the report. “Many companies don’t realize what is required -- they need to make compliance a priority.”

Between 2001 and 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission prosecuted 227 cases of bribery and corruption under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, according to the report.

Although Australia has had a similar law on the books since 2000, no one has been prosecuted until this year, when federal police charged Reserve Bank of Australia’s units Securency International Pty, Note Printing Australia Ltd. and employees at the companies over payments allegedly made in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam to secure banknote printing contracts.

Australia plans to strengthen anti-bribery laws following consultations with business, Home Affairs and Justice Minister Brendan O'Connor said last week.

Internal Resolution

``We want to examine our legislation in light of international developments and hear from you about the reality of doing business beyond our shores,'' he told a business group in Melbourne Nov. 15.

More than two-thirds of the Baker & McKenzie survey respondents who said their organization identified bribery and corruption issues indicated the cases were dealt with internally and by senior management, according to the report. Only 32 percent said their legal team had been involved.

Of the organizations who had uncovered a suspected case of corruption or bribery, 56 percent said they didn’t disclose the breach, the report showed. For the 40 percent who did divulge the issue, most commonly shared it with an overseas regulator.

“This is not unexpected given the emphasis on self reporting as a mitigating factor in other jurisdictions, particularly the U.K. and the U.S.,” according to the report.

--Editors: Suresh Seshadri, Douglas Wong

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net;


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