Recently we had the opportunity to sit down with Chiawen Kiew, Principal Investigations Manager at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and member of the Ethical Alliance Advisory Council, to hear his thoughts on anti-corruption and compliance issues and his views on the future of enforcement.
What makes you passionate about anti-bribery and corruption?
Anti-corruption is an area that can and does affect every facet of life. In the public governance sphere, corruption breaks the social contract between the people and the government that impedes true democracy; in the private sphere, it creates an uneven playing field that distorts the efficient functioning of economic markets.
The great capacity for making a difference in many areas motivates my work for anti-corruption. Corruption is an issue that affects the average citizen as well as the multi-billion dollar business transaction – it makes this field both extremely exciting and extremely daunting.
Tell us more about your background and how you started your career.
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, and studied International Relations as well as Music as an undergraduate at Stanford University. After that, I decided to pursue a career in law and am currently an accredited American lawyer.
I started out my career as a law clerk to a US federal appeals court judge, which exposed me to a wide range of legal issues – everything from election reform to immigration – and allowed me to engage with these issues on a level that was both deeply intellectual and influential. Then I worked in the litigation department of a prominent law firm in New York where I started practicing international corruption law and conducting international investigations. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to live in New York, Paris and London working on international anti-corruption issues both from a policy and investigative angle.
What about the Ethical Alliance excites you?
The Ethical Alliance is always looking for input to develop and understand the cutting edge issues in anti-corruption and financial crime. Policies and tools for fighting corruption, like the schemes to commit corruption, are constantly evolving. It is great that the Ethical Alliance seeks to keep abreast of these developments through constant contact with industry experts to develop a platform where the knowledge of experts can be transmitted to its members.
In your view, what is the future of enforcement?
I think that enforcement in terms of being a form of “punishment” has reached its limit, and there will be a turn towards prevention and compliance. There are already indications of this in the UK’s Bribery Act, in which a strong compliance programme could be a complete defence.
These indications lead me to believe that there will be a shift from a criminal framework (which seeks to address corruption through one-off enforcement actions) to a regulatory framework (which will focus on changing corporate culture of anti-bribery compliance). We have already seen this in anti-money laundering, for example, which has gone from a largely criminal enforcement regime to a regulatory regime (i.e., SARS transaction reporting, AML systems).
If you had to describe in one word, ‘what’s next’ for anti-corruption compliance, what would it be? Why?
One word: Harmonisation. Starting from the OECD Convention, through to the UN Convention Against Corruption, there has been a steady stream of attempts to harmonise and unify definitions, guidance, and laws so that there is a consistent approach to fighting corruption. Similarly, in my field, the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) have harmonised their definitions and practices in relation to misconduct that could lead to debarment in MDB-funded projects. It seems this trend may also finally reach the private sector with the issuance of ISO 37001 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which seeks to create a new standard for anti-bribery management systems.
However, while these developments are largely positive, I am wary that over-standardisation may lead to a “cookie-cutter” approach to compliance that may not be suitable for all companies and governments depending on their risk-profile.
If you had one message for our Ethical Alliance members, what would it be?
I would say, “Be vigilant.” I have often seen situations where companies do not realise how their actions place them at high risk of corruption. These include having dinner with government officials to engaging a sales agent in a new jurisdiction. Sometimes, companies rely upon their financial controls or perceived ethical core to keep their employees from committing bribery. However, a compliance system is only as good as the people who follow the system, and preventing corruption requires thinking beyond simple “on-off” switches to a more complex evaluation of risks and red flags.