French anti-corruption agency releases results of risk and compliance survey

On September 30, 2022, the Agence française anticorruption (AFA) published the results of a broad, anonymous survey sent in May 2022 to professional associations for distribution to companies of all types and sizes.  The purpose of the survey, released two years after a predecessor survey, was to understand the state of anticorruption and influence-trafficking detection and prevention programs among companies in France, the progress made since the last survey, and to focus the efforts of the AFA on issues faced by companies in implementing their compliance programs.

Three hundred and fifty companies responded to the survey; of these, 54% were French companies that belong to a group that is headquartered in France, 27% were French companies whose group headquarters is outside of France, and 19% were French companies that do not belong to a larger group of companies.  The industries represented shifted slightly toward more companies in the transportation sector, and more banks and insurance companies since the 2020 survey.  Nearly three-quarters of respondents do business internationally.  And most of the individuals responding to the survey serve in an ethics or compliance function within their companies – a nearly three-fold increase in this category since 2020, and an indication that ethics and compliance departments are playing an increasingly important role.

In terms of awareness of corruption and influence trafficking issues, and whether such issues are discussed in the workplace, there was an increase during the two-year inter-survey period.  At the same time, internal investigations, and formal and informal complaints about such issues saw significant increases over the course of the past five years, particularly among companies subject to reporting rules.  In fact, nearly one-quarter of all respondents contended with at least one case of corruption or influence trafficking during that time.

Notably, among respondents who reported having been confronted, in the international arena, with requests for facilitation payments, only 60% viewed this is a potential incident of corruption or influence trafficking.  Similarly, very few companies viewed themselves as being at high risk of corruption or influence trafficking, and about half of all companies deemed their risk as low.

At the same time, a majority of respondents found that the risk of corruption or influence trafficking exists in purchasing, management, business, finance, mergers and acquisitions, and human resources.

The number of companies that have implemented detection and prevention measures rose from 70% in 2020 to 90% today; among those who had not, the reasons given were lack of resources, low risk, no legal obligation to do so, or lack of information on the topic.  The AFA viewed as salient the implementation by 76% of respondents of a corruption and influence trafficking risk map, an indication, according to the AFA, of enhanced understanding of anti-corruption measures.  Nevertheless, fewer than half of companies claimed to have implemented all of the elements required by Article 17 of the Sapin II law.  Companies reported difficulties in carrying out due diligence on third parties, in large part because of the expense.  Companies also noted challenges determining the scope of anti-corruption accounting controls, and in creating a comprehensive risk map of the firm’s activities.  The survey also examined where and in what way corruption risks are taken into account in the course of business, how compliance measures are implemented across subsidiaries, and which employees are trained in anti-corruption and anti-influence trafficking measures.

In summary, although companies have made significant inroads toward increased understanding of influence trafficking and corruption offenses and implementation of compliance programs, there nevertheless remains room for improvement.  In particular, companies tend to undervalue their risk of exposure, and there are still deficiencies in the implementation of accounting controls and procedures for due diligence on third parties.

AFA press release | Report 

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