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British Regulator Issues Record Corruption Fine

Neil Baker | July 22, 2011

Britain's Financial Services Authority has slapped a record £7m fine on one of the country's biggest insurance brokers for failing to have good internal controls to prevent corruption.

The regulator said Willis Limited had not done enough to monitor £27m of payments to third parties in Russia and Egypt who helped it win contracts.

Failings in the company's anti-bribery and corruption systems and controls created an “unacceptable risk” that the payments could be used for corrupt purposes, the FSA said. The fine is the largest it has imposed in relation to financial crime systems and controls.

The FSA said its investigation into the company had uncovered three areas of weak controls. Willis failed to: establish and record an adequate commercial rationale to support payments to overseas third parties; ensure adequate due diligence was carried out on overseas third parties; and review its relationships on a regular basis.

The regulator also found that Willis improved its policies in this area three years ago, but failed to ensure staff were implementing them properly. The company's senior management did not get enough information about policy compliance to assess whether bribery and corruption risks were being mitigated effectively, the FSA said.

Tracey McDermott, acting director of enforcement and financial crime, said the company's failings were “particularly disappointing” because the regulator had regularly warned the insurance industry about corruption risks.

“The action we have taken against Willis Limited shows that we believe that it is vital for firms not only to put in place appropriate anti-bribery and corruption systems and controls, but also to ensure that those systems and controls are adequately implemented and monitored,” she said. 

The company's fine was reduced by 30% to £7m because it cooperated with the FSA and agreed to settle at an early stage.

Willis' chief executive Brendan McManus said the company had taken “Comprehensive and effective action” to fix the weaknesses identified by the FSA. “It goes without saying that our compliance framework and its application across the business are now very robust and central to the leadership of the company,” he said.