Bell Pottinger has pledged to implement a six point plan to ensure that ‘the agency meets the highest ethical and industry standards’ following the findings of a Herbert Smith Freehills Review into its work for Oakbay Investments, the holding company for the interests of the controversial South African-based Gupta family.
A statement from Bell Pottinger said it did ‘not believe that the actions taken in relation to this account are representative of the way it works in general’, but that it was determined to ‘learn lessons’ from the findings.
It will now:
Implement a more formal and robust engagement committee of any new client work, or substantial work for an existing client, including the ability to monitor on-going matters using spot checks. In doing so, it hopes to identify high risk clients and high risk mandates and ensure they are monitored and managed more closely.
Update its training programme, with particular emphasis on social media engagement, which employees and partners must complete as part of the formal appraisal process. In addition, using third parties or other suppliers to carry out social media work must gain approval from senior management.
Redevelop and re-issue its corporate policies in a new employee handbook, with a detailed corporate policy to address rules of engagement for social media work for clients.
Establish an ethics committee to separate the consideration of engaging clients from the consideration of wider ethical questions. The committee will consider how ethics impacts all relevant stakeholders.
Engender a culture whereby junior employees feel able to challenge work with which they feel uncomfortable. This is separate from the agency’s existing whistleblowing policy.
Introduce other actions as necessary as the changes are implemented.