Bribery is a problem in the legal profession, a professional survey confirms

More than one in five lawyers has been approached to act as an agent in a corrupt transaction, according to a survey by the International Bar Association. Furthermore, nearly a third of the lawyers who were asked said a colleague they know has been involved in international corruption.

Even more worryingly, 40% of the respondents had never heard of key international anti-corruption instruments like the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the OECD-Anti-Bribery Convention.

Nearly half of all respondents stated corruption was an issue in the legal profession in their own jurisdiction. The situation was worst in Africa, Latin America, the Baltic States and Eastern Europe.

Nicola Bonucci, Director for Legal Affairs at the OECD, which supported the survey, described the results as “disappointing”.

“International instruments like the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention form the basis for anti-bribery laws and enforcement actions the world over—lawyers need to be aware of how they can be affected in their own practice and of the tools that are available to assist with compliance.”

In related news, legal and insurance experts have warned that Directors and Officers are ill-prepared for the risks they will be exposed to.

Speaking to Zurich Financial Services' Directors Forum Martin Butterworth, partner, Davies Arnold Cooper LLP, warned directors about the UK's new bribery legislation, which comes into effect in April 2011.

He said the UK's Bribery Act will:

*         Increase protection to whistleblowers

*         See a rise in the number of actions taken by regulators, as well as self-disclosures by corporates

*         Further the potential liabilities that Directors & Officers are exposed to personally

*         Have ramifications for corporate activity beyond the UK

Directors and Officers were advised to:

*         Ensure their corporate governance structures are rigorous enough, and instil a culture of zero tolerance towards corruption offences

*         Closely examine bribery terms in contracts and scrutinise third parties

*         Work closely with their claims department