In-house lawyers should liaise more closely with their accountant colleagues to stamp out internal fraud.
The call for greater co-operation came from David Sherick, director of group fraud control and revenue assurance at Cable & Wireless in Hong Kong, who predicted an increase in fraud if the current worldwide economic downturn worsened.
Sherick told ACCA delegates at the Versailles conference that legal departments should ensure their company had a “clear and simple ethics policy that is widely disseminated and easily accessible”.
He warned: “If you don't have the right method of reporting fraud, it will probably be reported to the wrong person.”
And he advised delegates to take a tough line if fraud is discovered: “If an offence is committed, prosecute. That must be understood.”
Bill Waite, managing director of investigations agency Risk Advisory Group, warned delegates of the powers of the US Justice Department to investigate allegations of bribery of foreign officials under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
Waite said last December's decision by the 29 member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to implement similar legislation to the FCPA, meant the Justice Department would “launch far more investigations – not just in the US but across Europe”.
He said companies needed a plan to ensure they did not fall foul of the FCPA when hiring overseas consultants.
“There is no 'brass monkey' – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – defence,” said Waite.