Bribery Act – one year on

This month saw the first anniversary of the implementation of the Bribery Act 2010.

An important part of the Act was the introduction of the corporate offence of failure to prevent bribery which imposed strict criminal liability on a company for the actions of a person “associated” with it. The only defence for a company is for it to prove it had “adequate procedures” in place to prevent such bribery.

One year on and a recent survey by Deloittes showed that less than 10% of companies surveyed are concerned about Bribery Act enforcement against their company.

Furthermore the Ernst & Young Global Fraud Survey shows that only 26% of executives believe that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) are willing to prosecute cases of bribery and corruption and are effective in securing convictions.

Whilst it is true that there has so far only been one prosecution under the Act and there has yet to be a corporate prosecution, this is no reason for companies to become complacent. It is important to note that the Bribery Act is not retrospective, so offences committed prior to 1st July 2011 have been successfully prosecuted under the old anti-corruption laws – with 5 completed cases of bribery and corruption against UK companies brought so far this year.

With the SFO confirming that is actively investigating alleged bribery offences, enforcement under the Act is therefore likely to increase. Businesses should therefore not become complacent and should continue to monitor their compliance policies to ensure that they have “adequate procedures” in place.

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