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Temasek to hold roundtable on governance and ethics with portfolio companies in wake of Keppel bribery scandal

MAJOR Temasek Holdings portfolio companies have been asked how the Singapore investment firm can help to strengthen their governance models, in the wake of Keppel Corporation's offshore and marine bribery scandal.

An upcoming Temasek roundtable will focus on questions of governance and ethics, chairman Lim Boon Heng said in recent remarks to those companies' leaders, according to a transcript released on Monday.

He also noted that corruption offences are not limited to bribes, and can take the form of price-fixing and collusion, among other guises.

Mr Lim was addressing the chairs of major Temasek-linked companies, such as SMRT Corporation, Singapore Airlines, Sembcorp Industries and Keppel, at a session after Temasek's Chinese New Year lunch on Feb 27.

He told them that he wanted to hold the small group meeting "specifically to ask for your companies' active support and participation in this roundtable event".

The Temasek team will bring in domain experts and companies that have dealt with corruption and bribery, to share how best practices were implemented, he said. There will also be a series of forums on topics such as managing reputational challenges.

Mr Lim said he hoped that Temasek would be able to "proactively engage" with the companies' boards and leadership teams, in the coming months, on questions such as how the firms see the regulatory challenges and climate ahead and how comfortable they feel about having the right tools, structures and people to navigate challenges.

When wrongdoing takes place, "we all must be ready to engage shareholders and stakeholders, with what we have done to remedy the wrongdoing, and ensure it doesn't recur", he commented.

Referring to the principles of good governance and integrity in business dealings, Mr Lim asked the companies' heads to "please reinforce your commitment with your fellow directors, and especially to your management teams".

"I count on your support as we build and deepen engagement on these questions with you and your teams in coming months," he said. "This is critical as your companies grow and globalise beyond Singapore."

Keppel made headlines in late December over the news that its offshore and marine unit was hit with US$422.2 million in fines after a former agent paid out bribes to secure contracts in Brazil.

Mr Lim said that "what happened recently was a shock, not just to the company concerned". He added: "It really dents the reputation of Singapore and all the other Temasek companies."

The probe into Keppel's case has also swept up former key executives, according to media reports. These include Tay Kim Hock, the former president and chief executive of Keppel Fels Brasil.

Mr Lim told the companies at the Temasek lunch: "It takes courage to walk away from business opportunities, but it is more important to maintain and protect the reputation of your company and our nation.

"You all know that corporations can be held legally accountable for the actions of their staff and their third-party agents. The expectations on directors are also very high. We should and must ensure that our companies have proper safeguards and policies in place."