Ericsson, a Swedish multinational communication technology and services company, recently disclosed that a Greek prosecutor has summoned seven current and former Ericsson employees in a preliminary investigation involving allegations of possible corruption. Ericsson said it has not been contacted by any authority in this matter.
The investigation relates to a contract Ericsson Microwave Systems signed in 1999 to deliver an airborne radar system to Greece. “Ericsson commented publicly on this case more than two years ago, including in conjunction with its Annual General Meeting,” the company said.
Ericsson sold Ericsson Microwave Systems in 2006, at which time company records, agreements and documentations were handed over as part of the sale. According to the company, the current and former Ericsson employees have not yet been provided with the full relevant documentation from the investigation and have not yet been questioned by the Greek prosecutor.
Since these employee investigations are ongoing, Ericsson said it will not comment further on the substance of this matter. “Ericsson will continue to follow this case closely and will cooperate with authorities, as appropriate.”
As Compliance Week previously reported, Ericsson this week also issued a statement confirming that it’s being investigated for potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
On its website, Ericsson said it has “zero tolerance for corruption and bribery,” adding that it has customers in 180 countries—many posing a high risk of corruption. “Corruption risks are evaluated as an integral part of group risk assessment, in line with strategy and target-setting process,” the company said.
Headed by the group’s chief compliance officer, Ericsson’s anti-corruption compliance program targets both prevention and personal accountability, and its effectiveness is annually reviewed and evaluated by the audit committee. Last year, Ericsson said it “placed special focus on assessing risks for corruption and bribery in the supply chain in an effort to secure appropriate anti-corruption due diligence from business partners.”
Employee training. All Ericsson employees periodically acknowledge the Code of Business Ethics. By the end of 2015, more than 94,700 active employees had completed an e-learning course designed to raise awareness around corruption and offer appropriate courses of action.
“Key personnel in sales and other relevant functions receive additional specialized training,” the company said. “In 2015, we placed special focus on anti-corruption e-learning training for suppliers.”
New screening tool. To help ensure that suppliers meet its business integrity standards, Ericsson said it has selected an automated anti-corruption screening tool for suppliers and other third parties. The tool currently is being piloted in the country’s East Central Asia operations.
Whistleblower helpline. In November 2015, Ericsson said it strengthened the reporting of violations by implementing a third-party whistleblower system. The “Ericsson Compliance Line” empowers employees and external parties to report suspected violations of law or the Code of Business Ethics via phone or a secure website.
Ericsson Compliance Line is available 24/7, 365 days per year in 188 countries and in more than 77 different languages. “We believe that moving to a third-party managed compliance line enhances transparency and integrity and reflects industry best practice in anti-corruption,” the company stated.
Case handling. In 2015, the company received 116 cases of alleged violations of law or of the Group’s Code of Business Ethics reported via the whistleblower systems and other channels. Reports received are handled by the corporate investigation team, which reports to the audit committee. The team then makes a preliminary assessment of the case, and the group compliance forum then decides how to proceed. All reports are ultimately reported to the audit committee.