The Bribery Act came into force on 1 July 2011, amid high-profile fanfare, setting a new bar for standards of corporate conduct.
As a reminder, the Bribery Act:
- is broader in scope than the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and is among the strictest legislation internationally on bribery;
- has extra-territorial reach for UK companies operating abroad and for overseas companies with a presence in the UK;
- allows for the prosecution of an individual or company with links to the UK, regardless of where the crime occurred; and
- imposes severe penalties for contravening the Act, including up to 10 years’ imprisonment, along with an unlimited fine, and the potential for the confiscation of property and disqualification of directors under related legislation.
Despite this there appears to have been very little enforcement activity given the number of cases which have been brought before the Serious Fraud Office.
Does this mean we can be complacent?
‘No, definitely not!’, says Wendy Lloyd-Goodwin of Artington Legal. ‘While it is true that there haven’t been many prosecutions under the Bribery Act to date, you have to remember that the act is not retrospective and many cases have been investigated under earlier legislation. These kinds of investigations inevitably take a long time. Businesses should continue to ensure that they have “adequate procedures” in place under the act, designed to prevent payment of bribes and falling foul of the law in this complex area.’
There are four prime offences under the Bribery Act:
- two general offences covering the offering, promising or giving of a bribe, and requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting of a bribe;
- bribery of a foreign public official; and
- failure by a commercial organisation to prevent a bribe being paid to obtain or retain business or a business advantage.
If you have any questions about the way you should be complying with the Bribery Act, including whether your contracts, anti-corruption, gifts and entertainment policies and procedures are adequate and up to date, or about your liability for the activities of your business partners, you can contact us as set out below.