A consistency and effectiveness of approach by different UK regulators has been laid bare by two recent cases.
Ofwat recently demonstrated its willingness to hit businesses hard when it fined Southern Water £126 million for breaches of environmental regulations and for misreporting its performance.
Compare to the Serious Fraud Office which has dropped its investigation into previous directors of Unaoil despite admissions to US regulators that TechniqFMC had paid bribes through Unaoil to land contracts in Brazil and Iraq - fines of $296 million were imposed against TechniqFMC in the US.
Is it the case that the SFO now only wants to attack businesses which can be shamed into paying huge sums in fines and penalties rather than the directors themselves? The failed prosecutions against directors of Tesco compared to the Deferred Prosecution Agreement entered into by Tesco to avoid prosecution in return for paying fines of £129 million surely made the SFO sit up and think.
Businesses should be more wary than ever rather than complacent. Corruption Watch is lobbying for an expansion of anti-bribery and corruption laws into making companies criminally liable where they fail to prevent money laundering and fraud.
It has been obvious for some time that UK regulators are only interested in the easy kill where they can impose headline grabbing fines. The impact of any investigation can be traumatic and devastating - the only way businesses can protect themselves is to ensure they have fit for purpose policies and procedures in place to quickly demonstrate compliance.
Corruption Watch calls for the UK government to fulfil its commitment to introduce new legislation that would make companies criminally liable where they fail to prevent economic crime such as fraud and money laundering, and to ensure that the Law Commission does a full review of the antiquated corporate liability laws in the UK.