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50% of decision-makers prepared to act unethically, survey finds

May 09, 2018
The number of senior decision-makers in Ireland who would justify potentially unethical actions to help their business survive an economic downturn has risen to 50% from 38% in 2016, according to EY’s Global Fraud Survey, a biennial study of 2,550 senior decision-makers in a sample of the largest companies in 55 countries and territories.

Yet just 10% of senior business leaders in Ireland say that bribery and corruption happen widely in this country, almost four times lower than the global average of 38%. This is also in stark contrast to the 47% of Irish employees across all levels who believed that bribery and corruption happen widely in Ireland when surveyed for a similar report carried out last year. 

“The findings suggest that those at the most senior levels in Irish organisations may not be fully alert to the levels of unethical behaviour happening within their organisations, and in the market at large with such a marked disconnect between their views and the views of those on the ground we observed a year ago. The findings may also suggest something of a misunderstanding of what constitutes bribery or corruption,” said Julie Fenton, Partner & Head of EY’s Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services. 

The survey also shows that decision-makers in Ireland say that management is responsible to ensure employees behave with integrity. Further, Ireland lags behind other developed nations in penalising people for breaching policies. Just 12% of those surveyed say individuals are responsible for ensuring they behave with integrity (vs. 22% globally), and 44% say that people have been penalised in their organisation for breaching policies (vs. 57% globally). Instead, Irish businesses see management (58%) and the board (24%) as accountable for employee integrity.

The survey also examined the risks being faced by business globally:
  • 60% of Irish businesses say that the macroeconomic environment poses the biggest risk to their business, significantly higher than the global average of 42%. 
  • Half (52%) of Irish businesses say that a cyber-attack is among the biggest risks facing their business, versus a global average of 37%.
  • A further 30% say that fraud and corruption is among the biggest risks facing their business.
  • 26% say that geopolitical risk is the biggest threat.
Source: EY