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The majority of large companies are unaware of anti-corruption laws and say they are losing business to competitors because of bribery, a global survey has revealed.
The survey of 350 companies worldwide, carried out by Simmons & Simmons and risk consultancy Control Risks, asked companies what they were doing to combat corruption.
The results show that, despite increasing legislation across the world designed to fight corrupt practices such as bribery, more than half of the companies quizzed said they were either totally ignorant or had only a vague awareness of the law.
Simmons litigation and white-collar crime partner Nick Benwell said: "This is legislation that you would expect to have a reasonably high profile because of its impact on business and the consequences if there's any breach."
The level of knowledge of anti-corruption laws was highest in the Netherlands and Germany.
In the Netherlands just 32 per cent of respondents said that they had no knowledge of the law, with another 26 per cent saying they were vaguely aware of it; while in Germany the respective figures were 46 per cent and 14 per cent.
Brazilian companies are most likely to be unaware of anti-corruption laws, with only 16 per cent claiming detailed knowledge of legislation.
The survey found that UK companies are more likely to have codes of conduct forbidding bribes and facilitation payments than any other, with 92 per cent banning any bribe payments and 88 per cent stopping facilitation.
Benwell said in-house lawyers could help increase awareness within companies by training executives and instituting codes of conduct.
He added: "One of the things that really has the potential to make a difference is to have collective corporate activity, where the leading players in the industry get together and commit to standards of anti-corruption compliance."
Fifty companies in each of the UK, US, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil and Hong Kong were surveyed.