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Bribery and Corruption

The UK Bribery Act 2010 came into force on 1 July 2011.  The main change that the Act has brought is to introduce a corporate offence of failing to prevent a bribe.  Broadly, this means that a corporate body could be liable on criminal conviction to a fine (on which there is no limit) if a person associated with it (including its officers, employees or contractors) bribes someone anywhere in the world.  The only defence for the corporate will be to show that it had "adequate procedures" in place to prevent bribery.

The corporate offence will apply to all corporate bodies that are either incorporated in the UK, or which carry on a business or part of a business in the UK - irrespective of where in the world the actual bribe is offered, promised or given.  So, for example, a company based outside the UK but with a business in the UK can be prosecuted by the UK criminal authorities for a bribe made on its behalf by one of its contractors in a distant overseas country.

For some organisations, the risks will be very low.  For others, the risks will be higher, and for some (for example, large multinationals in high risk industries like construction, and/or which have offices and dealings in high risk countries) very high.  A criminal conviction of the corporate could be very serious, both financially (in terms of the fine, and the legal/accounting costs and the management time spent dealing with the criminal investigation and proceedings) and reputationally (which could have even worse implications in the long-term).

We have been advising a wide range of clients, including multi-national companies in the energy sector, an investment bank and professional services firms, on assessing their risk and putting in place policies and procedures in accordance with the adequate procedures guidelines.


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