Pervasive global corruption leaves boards struggling to cope

London, 11 June 2014

  • Share
Market % Applies % Does not apply
Nigeria 88 12
Kenya 87 10
South Africa 78 20
Greece 72 24
Namibia 72 22
Colombia 71 25
Brazil 70 30
Czech Republic 69 16
Italy 69 20
India 67 27
Slovenia 66 16
Argentina 64 32
Mexico 64 36
Croatia 64 18
Hungary 62 13
Serbia 60 28
Ukraine 60 12
Indonesia 56 30
Slovakia 56 10
Philippines 54 30
Middle East 52 44
Russia 48 26
Malaysia 46 40
Romania 46 32
Turkey 42 44
Total Average 38 51
Chile 37 57
Baltic States 34 47
Vietnam 32 60
Portugal 32 44
Spain 28 56
Saudi Arabia 26 16
China 24 64
US 22 68
Canada 20 78
Singapore 20 80
UK 18 70
Hong Kong SAR 16 78
Ireland 16 76
Norway 14 82
Poland 14 56
France 12 82
Luxembourg 8 76
Australia 8 80
Japan 6 88
Germany 6 92
Netherlands 6 86
Sweden 6 92
Belgium 6 84
South Korea 6 86
Switzerland 4 94
Austria 2 94
Finland 2 96
Denmark 2 96
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EY’s 13th Global Fraud Survey, Overcoming compliance fatigue: reinforcing the commitment to ethical growth, has found concerning levels of perceived fraud, bribery and corruption across the world. And, regarding emerging threats, despite the apparent global consensus on the significant scale of the threat of cybercrime, almost half of the respondents (48%) considered it to represent a very or fairly low risk to their business. 

  • EY’s survey of over 2,700 executives across 59 countries highlights that nearly 40% of executives consider bribery and corruption widespread in their country
  • Emerging risks are not being taken seriously enough, nearly half of respondents consider cybercrime a low risk
  • C-suite integrity perceived to be in doubt with significant minority of respondents willing to justify financial statement fraud
  • With management struggling to respond to long-standing and emerging fraud risks, boards put under more pressure

These survey findings suggest that executives may not have a proper appreciation of cybercrime risks. Respondents see hackers as the biggest concern (48%) and are underestimating the risk from organized crime syndicates as well as foreign states.

The survey included in-depth interviews with more than 2,700 executives across 59 countries, including chief financial officers, chief compliance officers, general counsel and heads of internal audit. Nearly 40% of all respondents believe that bribery and corruption are widespread in their country. (See Appendix 1 to this release for a list of country results.) With respondents portraying a business environment of pervasive corruption in many countries, it would appear that management and boards are struggling to respond to long-standing threats, let alone addressing emerging risks such as cybercrime.

David Stulb, Global Leader of EY’s Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services (FIDS) practice says, “With high-profile cybercrime incidents making headlines on a regular basis, boards should expect management to have a robust incident response strategy in place. Pressure on companies for timely disclosure of breaches is rising in many jurisdictions as well, so these issues require attention from the legal and compliance functions. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is increasingly focused on cyber risks as they relate to the integrity of financial statements too, so audit committee members have to be alert to today’s cyber threat environment.”

Is the C-suite making the right risk management choices?

The C-suite’s difficulties can only be heightened by insufficient awareness of the risks they face. Our survey found that they are less likely than their teams to attend anti-bribery/anti-corruption (ABAC) training (38%) or participate in an ABAC risk assessment (30%).

This is alarming given that these executives are apparently exposed to circumstances which threaten their integrity on a regular basis. Twenty-one percent of CEOs said that they had been approached to pay a bribe in the past, compared with 10% of all C-suite interviewees.

Worryingly, given their role in setting an ethical tone from the top, a significant minority (11%) of CEOs considered misstating financial performance to be justifiable in order to help a business survive an economic downturn, compared with 6% of all respondents.

Stulb continues, “Given the risk of management overriding financial controls, the implications for boards from these findings about C-suite integrity are serious. Enhancing board connectivity with business and finance leaders in the company – but below the C-suite – would be useful to confirm that the board is getting the full and accurate picture. With regulators committing additional resources to prosecuting financial statement fraud, and cooperating frequently with prosecutors from other jurisdictions, the stakes have never been higher.”

David Remnitz, EY’s Global FIDS Forensic Technology Leader, adds: “Regulators are investing heavily to bolster their ability to mine big data from corporations for potential irregularities. The latest data visualization tools can help to identify revenue recognition or procurement-related red flags earlier and more efficiently. Boards should be asking how management is leveraging forensic data analytics to get the most from their big data in order to improve compliance and investigative outcomes.”

The need to reinvigorate compliance

The survey also found that compliance fatigue within businesses appears to have set in at a time when they can least afford it. In a regulatory environment in which international cooperation is becoming more frequent, our respondents described a largely static internal compliance environment:

  • One in five businesses still do not have an ABAC policy
  • 45% of organizations have not introduced a whistleblowing hotline
  • Less than 50% of respondents have attended ABAC training
  • Less than a third of businesses are conducting anti-corruption due diligence as part of their mergers and acquisitions process.

“Enforcement of anti-bribery/anti-corruption laws has become more intensive, with significantly strengthened cross-border cooperation among regulators,” explains Stulb. “With new, tougher laws in numerous jurisdictions, and enhanced prosecutorial powers and bigger budgets for law enforcement in certain key geographies, this trend is not just a US phenomenon. Despite numerous recent high-profile prosecutions of major multinationals and their executives, many companies continue to miss opportunities to implement robust ABAC policies and risk assessments. Too few are regularly conducting anti-corruption due diligence. CEOs can do more to lead from the front on these matters, and boards and other stakeholders should intensify their efforts to challenge management to reinforce their commitment to ethical growth.” 


1. Appendix

Results relating to perceptions of bribery and corrupt practices by country

Survey question: “Can you tell me whether you think the following statement applies, or does not apply, to your country, or whether you don't know? Bribery/corrupt practices happen widely in business in this country” 

Base: All respondents (2,658) - excludes Egypt, New Zealand and Israel as response numbers not sufficient

Note: Given that approximately 50 executives were interviewed in each country, these results are indicative and reflect the perceptions of those that were interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views of EY. For more comprehensive analysis of the perceived levels of corruption in particular countries, see Transparency International’s corruption measurement tools, including the Corruption Perceptions Index, the Bribe Payers Index and the Global Corruption Barometer.

2.   Notes to editors           

About the survey

Between November 2013 and February 2014, our researchers – the global market research agency Ipsos – conducted 2,719 interviews in the local language with senior decision-makers in a sample of the largest companies in 59 countries.

About EY’s Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services (FIDS) practice

Dealing with complex issues of fraud, regulatory compliance and business disputes can detract from efforts to succeed. Better management of fraud risk and compliance exposure is a critical business priority — no matter the industry sector. With our more than 2,600 fraud investigation and dispute professionals around the world, we assemble the right multidisciplinary and culturally aligned team to work with you and your legal advisors. And we work to give you the benefit of our broad sector experience, our deep subject matter knowledge and the latest insights from our work worldwide.

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities. 

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