On July 21, 2011, the U.K.’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) announced that it had fined Willis Limited (“Willis”) £6.895 million for shortcomings in its anti-bribery and corruption systems and controls. The record fine came after an investigation identified $227,000 in suspicious payments to counterparties in Egypt and Russia, which the FSA said were referred to the U.K.'s Serious Organized Crime Agency for further investigation. According to the FSA’s press release, Willis’ failings created an unacceptable risk that payments made by the company to overseas third parties could be used for corrupt purposes. The fine represents the largest imposed by the FSA in relation to any type of financial crime (corruption-related or otherwise) to date.
The FSA press release states that between January 2005 and December 2009, Willis made £27 million in payments to overseas third parties to win and retain business abroad, particularly in high corruption risk jurisdictions. Specifically, the FSA investigation found that Willis failed to: (i) ensure there was a legitimate commercial rationale to support its payments to overseas third parties; (ii) ensure that adequate due diligence was carried out on overseas third parties; (iii) evaluate the risk involved in doing business with the third parties; and (iv) adequately review its third-party relationships on a regular basis.
The press release notes that Willis cooperated with the FSA and agreed to settle at an early stage of the FSA’s investigation. As a result, Willis qualified for a 30% discount under the FSA’s settlement discount scheme.