Trade & investment

Business toughens anti-bribery rules

  • 6 October 2005

The International Chamber of Commerce today issued a tougher version of its Rules of Conduct to Combat Extortion and Bribery, including a stronger rejection of facilitation payments and a requirement that companies establish confidential channels for staff members to seek advice and report violations without fear of retaliation.

The new code was drafted by members of ICC’s Anti-Corruption Commission, under the chairmanship of Francois Vincke and with the invaluable input of Commission Vice-Chair Fritz Heimann and Commission member Jean-Pierre Méan. Mr Vincke said: “The new rules provide an expanded definition of bribery and extortion, which clearly also covers offences in relation to regulatory permits, taxation, customs, judicial and legislative proceedings.”

Principles governing the use of agents and other intermediaries have been strengthened. The previous 1999 rules already tackled concerns about the use of agents to pay bribes, but a new article has been added to deal with mounting concerns about bribe payments by other intermediaries, including foreign subsidiaries, and joint venture partners and through outsourcing arrangements.

The rules now clearly prohibit facilitation payments. Exceptions may be allowed after appropriate management review, but they should be limited and provisional. The new provisions require enterprises to take appropriate steps to ensure that political and charitable donations are not used as a subterfuge for bribery and accord with applicable law. A new article also covers the use of gifts and hospitality expenses.

Mr Vincke commented: “The battle against corruption has intensified in the wake of recent corporate scandals. Companies doing business in many parts of the world are especially exposed to risk because of a lack of strictly enforced anti-corruption laws. In this situation, it is up to business to make its own rules so that transactions can be carried out honestly and without competitive distortions.”