SINGAPORE (Dec 31): Keppel Corp ruined my Christmas break last year. On Dec 23, 2017, the company owned up to its involvement in a bribery scandal in Brazil, and unveiled a “global resolution” that would see it pay fines of more than US$422.2 million. The scale of the fines, and the fact that Keppel had been denying bribery allegations since early 2015, made this exactly the sort of story we would ordinarily jump on.
Unfortunately, The Edge Singapore had already closed its last issue of the year, and our next issue was not going to be out until about a week after the New Year. And, by then, I knew any story we pulled together would lack the impact of timeliness.
Looking back now, the Keppel bribery case was actually part of a bigger story that has unfolded over the past year about the effectiveness of market regulators and law enforcement agencies in bringing big corporates to heel. With increasingly globalised businesses, and sometimes employing disruptive new technologies, big companies are becoming harder to regulate. In some cases, the appropriate laws might not exist. In other cases, public apathy or some competing interest might prevent regulators from acting.