New anti-corruption offences come into force today
No backdown in biz bung crackdown
New anti-corruption laws come into force today, giving companies more certainty over what constitutes bribery but placing greater obligations on companies to tackle corruption.
A company could be responsible for bribery carried out by its employees without its knowledge or consent under the Bribery Act. It creates a new offence of failure to prevent bribery by people working for or on behalf of a business, but companies can escape liability if they show that they have "adequate procedures" designed to prevent bribery in place.
Under the Act, the maximum penalty for individuals found guilty of bribery will rise from seven to 10 years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
Previous anti-corruption laws were criticised as being too complicated and for not giving a clear enough definition of what constitutes bribery. The new law has been welcomed for its clarity.
In addition to creating new obligations for companies to have anti-corruption policies in place, the Act also creates the offence of bribing a foreign public official, even if that person has demanded a bribe.
UK companies and partnerships could be breaking the law no matter where the alleged acts of bribery take place. Foreign companies which operate in the UK could also face prosecution regardless of where the alleged bribery has taken place, unless the suspect activities are permitted locally.
The Act was due to come into force in April, but was delayed to give the government more time to review its guidance (45-page/390KB PDF) on the adequate procedures companies can put in place to prevent people associated with them from bribing.
The guidance provides six essential principles for companies to follow in order to ensure they comply with the new law: proportionate procedures; a top-level commitment ensuring that directors and staff are unified in fighting bribery; undertaking occasional risk assessments; checking out third parties such as intermediaries and subcontractors to ensure that they are honest; communicating anti-bribery policies to staff and providing staff training, monitoring and review.
A company could also be liable for the actions of associated people, which the Bribery Act lists as including recruitment firms, commercial agents, partners, consultants and subcontractors.
Last month a survey by business information company Thomson Reuters revealed that almost 40 per cent of UK businesses think their senior executives and board members are unprepared for the new law.
However, in order to be adequate, a company's procedures need only be proportionate to the risks that business faces as well as its size and resources.
"Much has been written about the draconian effects of the Bribery Act and the risks that it poses to UK businesses," said Barry Vitou, bribery law expert with Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. "However, businesses that try their best to comply with the provisions of the Act, and which behave in an ethical manner, will have nothing to fear."
Copyright © 2011, OUT-LAW.com
OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
"the Act also creates the offence of bribing a foreign public official...
...even if that person has demanded a bribe"
I give it 6 weeks before Nigeria declares bankruptcy. Can't get anything done down there without a backhander or seven. Per person. Within earshot.
@Destroy All Monsters
Back in the days of the Soviet Union, there was a story about the luggage carts at Moscow airport:
In order to check in your luggage you needed a trolley and each was released by inserting a one rouble (?) coin. You would then be escorted through security into the departure area. It was also illegal to take any Russian currency out of the country. By passing through check-in, every person leaving the country effectively broke this law, allowing anyone the state wished to be arrested or charged with serious international money trafficking crimes.
UK law appears to now be based on this model... the more laws there are and the more impossible the law is to understand, the more the state can impose itself on anyone, for any reason...
So you're a UK citizen or employee abroad in say, Zimbabwe and have been pulled over by the police for some none existent offence... Do you give the guy the $10 bribe he wants and drive away, potentially breaking some loony UK law, or do you risk spending an indefinite period in police cells that many have not returned from? How many UK businesses will be unable to do business in country's where bribes (wrongly in my opinion, but that's not the point) are regarded by their governments as little more than compulsory tips? How long before China makes it illegal for their citizens to report news or similar when abroad in the UK, and uses our crazy laws as justification?
More to the point, WTF happened to the "great repeal bill" that was supposed to get rid of most of this self serving crap?
WTF are you talking about
The entire parliament is a bunch of boy-scouts compared to your average UK PLC.
Every time I work on a project there is an endless stream of requests to accommodate this particular contractor, this particular vendor, etc and every time I do even the minimum of digging it is clear that the reason for the request is plain and simple - "vested interest". Either of the person requesting or of someone behind him get a kickback or accumulate "special favor credit".