20 January 2009
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined consultancy Aon a record £5.25 million for failing to implement anti-corruption controls.
The regulator said Aon did not establish and maintain effective systems to mitigate the risk of employees using bribery to win business. It found Aon had made "suspicious payments" of around $7 million (£4.7 million) to firms and individuals overseas.
The failings came to light when Aon did not properly assess potential bribery and corruption risks during its preparation for FSA regulation in 2003.
The fine is the largest the FSA has imposed related to a financial crime, and it could have been 30 per cent higher if the firm had not chosen to settle at an early stage in the investigation.
Margaret Cole, director of enforcement for the FSA, said the penalty sent a message to financial services firms in the UK that it is "completely unacceptable" for them to compete for business abroad without appropriate anti-bribery and corruption controls.
Aon said the failings arose out of its aviation and energy sectors and it had significantly strengthened its controls for payments to third parties. This included an anti-corruption programme and reviewing all of its existing customer relationships.
Ben Summers, partner at law firm Peters & Peters, said he expected to see an increase in similar action by the FSA in the future. He said the fine will warn others to get their "houses in order" and introduce anti-bribery measures, or risk facing prosecution.