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29 Nov 23

My Company Was Charged With Bribery – What Should We Expect?

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Last Updated on: 14th December 2023, 06:19 pm

My Company Was Charged With Bribery – What Should We Expect?

Getting that call from the authorities saying your company is under investigation for bribery can be terrifying. Even if you’re certain no one did anything wrong, being charged with something as serious as bribery can totally shake up your business.

The good news is that just being charged doesn’t mean you’ll be found guilty. But it does mean you need to take action to protect yourself. Here’s what you can expect if your company is accused of bribery, and how to handle it.

Try to Stay Calm

Easier said than done, right? But flying off the handle won’t do you any good here. Take some deep breaths and focus on getting through this one step at a time. Easier said than done, I know! But losing your cool won’t help anything.

Get Legal Help ASAP

You’ll need an experienced white collar defense lawyer on your side immediately. Don’t try going it alone against bribery charges – the legal waters here are treacherous. A good lawyer knows how to navigate them. They can advise you on next steps and build the strongest possible defense.

Expect to pay a hefty retainer fee upfront – legal help on criminal charges doesn’t come cheap. But it’s a necessary investment to protect yourself and your business. Shop around to find the right attorney for your needs and budget.

Cooperate Fully with the Investigation

This is so important. Do not try to hide anything or impede the investigation in any way. That will only make you look guilty. Pledge full cooperation, then follow through.

Provide all documents requested. Make employees available for questioning. Comply with subpoenas. This shows you have nothing to hide and are taking the charges seriously.

That said, have your attorney present for questioning and document production. Don’t simply hand over information without oversight. Your lawyer needs to ensure the authorities stay within appropriate bounds.

Conduct an Internal Investigation

In addition to cooperating with authorities, conduct your own thorough internal investigation. You need to find out exactly what happened here – if anything.

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Instruct all employees to preserve relevant documents and communications. Dig through financial records for any suspicious transactions. Interview involved parties. The goal is learning the truth, even if it’s unpleasant.

Present any helpful findings to the authorities. Just be sure to run everything by counsel first. You don’t want to accidentally hand them evidence against you!

Consider Voluntary Disclosure

If your internal investigation does reveal wrongdoing, consider voluntary self-disclosure to the authorities. This involves openly presenting them with your findings and pledging to remedy the situation.

Though risky, it shows good faith and a willingness to take responsibility. In some cases, this can lead to reduced charges or penalties down the road. But consult your attorney before taking this step.

Communicate Proactively

Get ahead of the story with employees, shareholders and the media. Draft a statement emphasizing your cooperation, your commitment to operating ethically and your intent to get to the bottom of this.

Answer questions and provide information openly. Don’t try to dodge scrutiny. Make sure employees know not to spread speculation or misinformation. Getting out in front of the story looks far better than staying silent.

Review and Strengthen Compliance Programs

Take a close look at your existing compliance policies and procedures. Where might there be weak spots or opportunities for unethical behavior? Shore these up right away.

Provide new or refresher training on key issues like gift giving, expense reporting, third party vetting, etc. Update protocols as needed. Document everything thoroughly. This shows your commitment to running an above-board operation.

Don’t Retaliate Against Whistleblowers

If an employee raised concerns about potential misconduct, do not retaliate in any way. This is illegal and will only cause more problems. Continue treating them fairly and make it clear retaliation will not be tolerated.

Also, avoid punishing employees preemptively as a reaction to the charges. Only take disciplinary action based on actual findings from your investigation.

Rally Your Team

This situation can take a toll on company culture and morale. Rally your team by acknowledging the challenges but also emphasizing strengths. Avoid pointing fingers – you’re all in this together.

Be as transparent as possible with employees. Outline the steps you’re taking to address the charges and make things right. Your team will take cues from your attitude and tone, so emphasize resilience, integrity and learning from mistakes.

Reflect on Lessons Learned

No matter the outcome, use this as a chance to assess your compliance practices and company culture. Were there gaps or blind spots that enabled misconduct? How can you better promote transparency and ethical behavior moving forward?

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Though painful, these situations present opportunities for improvement. Focus on the insights you’ve gained and how your company can emerge even stronger.

Bribery Charges Don’t Mean You’re Guilty

Being accused of something doesn’t make it true. With smart navigation and robust defense, you can beat bribery allegations. It won’t be quick or easy, but staying calm and following the right steps gives you the best chance.

And if wrongdoing did occur, taking responsibility and strengthening compliance shows your commitment to setting things right. Either way, your company can come through this intact. It will require patience, integrity and resilience. But have faith in your people and your mission. You’ve got this!

References

Here are some useful resources on dealing with bribery charges:

Justice Manual on Prosecuting Business Organizations

SEC Guide to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

Responding to a Government Investigation: A Guide for In-House Counsel

Bribery and Corruption Prevention and Compliance

Navigating Bribery Allegations