Christmas time, review your gift policy

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It’s that time of the year again; many business meetings, several deals to close before the end of the year, dinners and…season gifts. 

What can be assumed to be an innocent gift can, in reality, be a violation of anti-corruption laws, turning a festive moment into a nightmare. Let’s see what we can do to minimize the risks and enjoy the holidays. (and, please, be aware that private corruption is also a felony in some countries, e.g. the U.K.)

Follow your Regulator’s guidelines. If your Regulator has issued Guidelines on this regard, following them is the best possible approach. Just be sure that your anti-corruption training emphasizes on gifts and hospitality, that your policies are well known throughout the company and gifts (received and given) are properly registered.

You need rules. if the case above does not apply to your company, you need to establish certain rules and, of course, apply them.

Start setting the maximum nominal value (usually no more than 100€ each) and make sure everyone complies with that. Be also aware of what public officials are not allowed to do; in some administrations there is a non gift policy that you should be aware about in advance (to avoid your gift being politely refused). In such cases a Christmas card is normally the best choice.

Register, register, register. You need to know how many gifts your company delivered per year, to whom and their value as well. In case, detailed records will help you demonstrating your good faith.

Gifts received. the same approach shall be used regarding the gifts received by your company; the expensive ones might be inappropriate or worse, therefore, better tackling the issue proactively. Whilst refusing a gift should never be, for obvious reasons, your first choice, there are ways to deal with more expensive gifts, however, the company (meaning the compliance department) shall always be informed about them:

  1. Accepting the gift. it can happen in case of perishable goods such as flowers or chocolates. In such cases the gift is regularly registered and the employee is allowed to keep it.
  2. Keeping the gift at the office. I usually suggest my clients more expensive goods should be kept in the office premises; the sender does not get offended and no one at the company actually owns or uses the gift.
  3. Refusing the gift. Worst case scenario, normally reserved to the ‘unacceptable gifts’, those very disproportionate like a week in a five stars resort, a private jet flight, diamonds etc. Oftentimes this gifts conceal bribes.

Michele La Neve explains how to avoid corruption pitfalls in gifts and hospitality

Please, kindly note I generically referred to gifts here, however, the same applies to hospitality, being both high risk areas for anti-corruption.

Also noteworthy that these rules should apply throughout the year, particularly in those regions (e.g. Asia), where business gifts are common practice, to avoid awkward moments, better letting your counterpart know your rules.

On the top of everything, Merry Christmas!

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Michele La Neve

White Collar Crime Attorney at Whitecotton Law Dedicated to Helping Clients Overcome Unforeseen Business Risks.

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