Willis receives record fine for lax anti-bribery measuresReprints
LONDON—The Financial Services Authority has fined Willis Ltd. nearly £6.9 million ($11.1 million) for failings in its anti-bribery and anti-corruption systems and controls.
According to the FSA, the fine is the largest ever imposed by the agency in relation to financial crimes systems and controls.
Between January 2005 and December 2009, Willis Ltd. “made payments to overseas third parties who assisted it in winning and retaining business from overseas clients, particularly in high-risk jurisdictions. The payments totaled £27 million” ($43.6 million), the FSA said in a statement.
Until August 2008, Willis Ltd. failed to ensure that it had established an adequate commercial rationale to support payments to overseas third parties, failed to use adequate due diligence to evaluate the risk involved in doing business with third parties, and failed to adequately review its relationships to confirm whether it still was necessary and appropriate to continue the relationships, said the FSA.
The failures gave rise to an “unacceptable risk that these payments could be used for corrupt purpose, including paying bribes,” the FSA said in a statement announcing the action.
However, the FSA also said that Willis had “taken significant steps to address the failings” and cooperated with the agency. Because of that, Willis was entitled to a 30% discount, without which the fine would have been nearly £9.9 million ($16 million).
“We set very high standards for ourselves as a company,” Brendan McManus, who recently was named CEO of Willis Ltd., said in a statement. “We will only accept the very best practice in the systems and controls we apply to our operations.”
“When we discovered some of our businesses had not got that right in the past, we were swift to engage with the FSA” to achieve the regulatory resolution, said Mr. McManus. “Our close co-operation has been recognized by the FSA, and we are grateful to them for that.”
Mr. McManus said Willis Ltd.'s “compliance framework and its application across the business are now very robust and central to the leadership of the company. We can now move forward, stronger as a result.”
The fine against Willis Ltd. grew from a “thematic review,” said a spokeswoman for the FSA. “We basically looked across the whole sector, and we're considering whether to refer any other firms for enforcement,” the spokes-woman said.
Willis Ltd. is the second large insurance broker to be sanctioned by the FSA for lax anti-bribery and anti-corruption controls. In early 2009, Aon Corp.'s London-based Aon Ltd. was fined £5.3 million ($8.5 million) because the brokerage “failed to properly assess the risks involved in its dealings with overseas firms and individuals who helped it win business, and failed to implement effective controls to mitigate those risks,” the FSA said.
As a result, between Jan. 14, 2005, and Sept. 30, 2007, Aon Ltd. made “suspicious payments” amounting to about $7 million to several overseas firms and individuals, the FSA found.
At the time, the fine was the largest financial crime-related fine levied by the FSA.