Shell has upped the ante on anti-corruption prior to this year’s implementation of the Bribery Act by extending its scrutiny to law firms that advise third parties involved in joint ventures, and therefore are not employed by the company.
Shell chief ethics and compliance officer Richard Wiseman and global legal services coordinator Leanne Geale are asking non-panel firms with which Shell does business for details of their anti-corruption compliance procedures.
As part of the tender process concluded in May 2010, all panel firms were asked about their compliance procedures. However, this is thought to be the first time an organisation has extended enquiries to third parties.
Shell’s move, which will be watched closely by in-house lawyers at other companies, is designed to address Section 7 of the Bribery Act, a controversial clause that states a commercial organisation is guilty of an offence if someone associated with it bribes another person.
Wiseman told The Lawyer: “What we have in mind is a firm acting for us as an intermediary with a foreign government, negotiating a contract or licence on our behalf, for example.
“[Our] enquiry is about the law firm’s own programme for compliance with anti-bribery and corruption laws and extends to all countries in which the law firm practises. We’ve had no objections [about these firms] so far, but we know that other companies have found that law firms had obtained advantages for them by unauthorised improper means.”