Wednesday, 12 April 2023

"Instances of corporate fraud, bribery and corruption are a constant.” 

Each year, Financier Worldwide gathers insights from leading professionals into evolving trends in corporate fraud and corruption.   

Forensic Partners, Matthew Fleming and Adam Simms, joined fellow experts contributing commentary on integrity matters in their respective jurisdictions. Matthew and Adam conveyed their perspectives on corporate fraud and corruption in Australia. They highlighted that while instances remain constant, “… we are seeing more cases come to light now as business leaders dig into the weeds.” 

Impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and current economic challenges were identified among the factors prompting businesses to look closer and tighten controls. The pandemic prompted a transition to remote working for many Australian businesses. Matthew and Adam delved into how this shift significantly increased opportunities for malicious actors to commit integrity breaches as many businesses had less employee oversight. They saw a rise in the reporting of crimes such as procurement fraud, inventory theft and bid-rigging, noting, “It was clear that a proportion of remote workers were gaming the system for their benefit.” As many businesses are now tightening controls in response to current economic conditions, a sharpened focus on matters such as expenditure and supplier contracts is also bringing integrity breaches back into the spotlight. 

Matthew and Adam also addressed the current ability for regulators to combat fraud and corruption. Despite robust penalties being legislated, they discussed the issues often preventing penalties from being applied to their fullest extent. The drafting of legislation around a new corruption agency for Australia, however, is expected to lead the country’s, “… most dramatic public integrity reform for over 50 years.” 

Calling on extensive investigations experience, Matthew and Adam discussed practical steps organisations can take to proactively prevent integrity breaches and to respond if faced with an alleged incident. Training is critical – keeping staff up to date with the latest trends and schemes and creating awareness about the markers of integrity breaches. Organisational culture is also a key factor in fraud and corruption cases. Besides encouraging ethical conduct, employers must facilitate internal reporting mechanisms – with whistleblowers among the most important and early sources of insight, organisations must create an environment where employees feel safe to escalate any concerns. Highlighting the importance of a planned approach to incident response, they also advise organisations to, “… hasten slowly and use professionals…” to ensure evidence is gathered in a legally defensible manner that can withstand scrutiny if challenged in court or other proceedings. 

Click here to read the full interview with Matthew and Adam, as featured in Financier Worldwide. Financier Worldwide subscribers can also access the full publication, including all global responses, here.