July Countdown for World’s Toughest Anti-bribery Laws

Kimberly Watson, Editor in Chief
February 28, 2012 /

The long awaited Bribery Act 2010 (the Act) comes into force on 1 July 2011, enforcing a total reform of the current anti-bribery regime.

UK businesses now have less than two months to ensure they are prepared to successfully defend a prosecution for failing to prevent bribery by any of their employees, business partners and anyone else providing a service to the organisation.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) published their ‘adequate procedures guidance’ on 30 March, confirming that the Act will be implemented on 1 July 2011.

Brent McDaniel, UK Head of Anti-Bribery & Corruption, said: “It is clear that the fight against bribery and corruption is high on the SFO’s agenda, therefore now is the time for any corporate, that conducts all or part of its business in the UK, to prepare themselves in a proportionate but adequate way.”

The guidance provides suggestions for good compliance, but precedents will be set, fines doled out, and culture shifted through the decisions made by the SFO and in court.

“We need to cut through the noise created by the corporate hospitality hype and listen to what the guidance is telling us about the Act. The SFO is likely to have little interest in prosecuting over a bottle of wine or a ticket to the Olympics. The mandate is to stamp out grand scale corruption in high risk countries, but doing so with limited resources,” McDaniel added.

“In these global times, this UK-based law is geographically omnipotent and doesn’t just apply to UK companies doing business overseas. Non-UK companies conducting business in the UK will also be a focus, in an attempt to level the playing field for domestic companies.”

MOJ Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, announced that the UK will reinforce its reputation as a leader in the global fight against corruption when the Act comes into force.

“I have listened carefully to business representatives to ensure the Bribery Act is implemented fully and in a workable, commonsense way – this is particularly important for small firms that have limited resources,” Clarke said.

“Some have asked whether business can afford this legislation – especially at a time of economic recovery. But the choice is a false one. We don’t have to decide between tackling corruption and supporting growth. Addressing bribery is good for business because it creates the conditions for free markets to flourish.”

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business said: “Bribery has no place in British business, at home or abroad. This new robust law reflects the UK’s leading role in the fight against bribery, updates regulation dating back to 1906 and paves the way for competitive but fair practice.

“Over time we expect the new Act to boost the prospects of UK businesses through enhanced reputation for ethical standards, reduced costs and a level international playing field.”

The SFO has published detailed guidance setting out the approach they intend to take to prosecution of offences under the Bribery Act 2010. In addition, the MOJ has issued guidance on the procedures which organisations should put into place to prevent bribery.

The Act is set to come into force on 1 July 2011 and drastically reforms the law of bribery in the UK. The Act creates new general offences of giving and receiving bribes and bribing a foreign public official. The Act also introduces a new corporate offence for any commercial organisation which fails to prevent bribery from being committed by their representatives.

Businesses can offer a defence in court if they can prove that they have ‘adequate procedures’ in place to prevent bribery.

 

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