The strong entrepreneurial spirit and well-established brand attracted Natali Engstam Phalén to Lindahl. In this article she shares what she has learnt about the importance of working proactively on anti-corruption and compliance, and what has characterised this field of law in recent years.
As of October this year Natali Engstam Phalén is responsible for providing advice on Compliance & Investigations and on EU & Competition Law, including public procurement, at Lindahl's office in Stockholm. Natali’s previous role was as Secretary-General of the Institute Against Bribery (IMM), where she has worked since 2017. She has experience as a lawyer, and is very well-versed in EU and competition law, compliance and procurement.
During the past three years Natali has been voted one of the female leaders of the future, and in 2019 she was named one of the most powerful women in business. Known for her ability to lead development and achieve results to the delight of both clients and colleagues, Natali is a most welcome addition.
– It’s wonderful to be back in the agency world after my years as Secretary-General of IMM – and to be back in professional life following maternity leave.
She has learnt a great deal and gained insight from her experience, including the importance of working on anti-corruption issues from all perspectives.
– It’s important from a societal perspective, for the sake of individuals, and to ensure good business. Issues concerning anti-corruption and compliance must be taken seriously, not only because there are rules concerning these issues but also because it’s the right thing to do and leads to good results.
A field characterised by challenges
Natali is now absolutely convinced that proactive work on anti-corruption and compliance is crucial to attaining sustainability both in society and in business. She says that a major challenge of this field of law is that it can be perceived as being a sensitive issue to address.
– The issue of corruption is often the elephant in the room, meaning there’s still a degree of unwillingness to address the issue, as it’s perceived as being difficult and sensitive. The mere fact that you can risk committing a crime at work can be a sticking point in this field. Suspicion of corruption violations is a great strain – for individuals and for the organisation.
Another challenge is the fact that ignorance still prevails, often because many don’t have a broad understanding of what corruption means, she continues.
– It’s easy to think that corruption is about bribery and something happening in far-off countries. But despite our not having so-called everyday corruption, it can become apparent through other actions. We’re also a relatively small export- and import-dependent country with extensive contacts with a world that unfortunately is more or less corrupt in many regions, with systems that are often unlike those we have here in Sweden.
Corruption among Swedish companies
– This means the biggest risks can be in international contexts, especially when you use intermediaries and third parties, Natali continues.
– Companies that have extensive contact with the public sector or take part in public procurement processes are also particularly exposed to risk. The level of what is allowed in the contact between the public and private sectors differs significantly from private-private relationships, she continues.
– We also have what may not be perceived as corruption in the everyday sense, yet nevertheless is, namely the typical Swedish forms of corruption: nepotism and mutual favours. They’re not always punishable, but can have negative consequences for reputation and perhaps above all as regards the ability to conduct sound and good business.
What has characterised this area of law in recent years is an increased expectation of ethical behaviour on the part of legislators, investors, employees and consumers.
– Anti-corruption and business ethics are the pillars of all sustainability work, and we’re gradually starting to interlink these areas. At the same time there’s a marked international trend towards increased legislation and more stringent requirements for companies and organisations in terms of proactive work on corruption and tougher sanctions in the event of a failing in this regard. The pending whistleblower legislation also requires many companies to have formal whistleblowing systems in place.
An enjoyable and rewarding work environment
Natali says that what particularly attracted her to Lindahl was the strong entrepreneurial spirit within a big established agency that has everything in place as regards infrastructure and solid expertise in all areas.
– This helps make it a very enjoyable and rewarding environment to work in. Lindahl also has a very strong and well-established brand, which is a good foundation for positive work on the legal issues.
Natali finally wishes to emphasise that anti-corruption is an area of law that will become increasingly important. The expectation that companies will do structured and proactive work on these issues will only increase.
– If you wish to create companies that are sustainable in the long term and that do good business, this is a core issue. We at Lindahl therefore offer anti-corruption training for our clients, whereby we also assess the company’s current situation and can help identify what the risks are.