Today the Bribery Act 2010 comes into force. It creates the most onerous anti-corruption regime in the world.
Businesses operating in the UK face criminal liability for bribes paid by third parties, wherever in the world that activity takes place. The Act raises the prospect that businesses could face prosecution in relation to bribes that they do not know about, paid by business partners overseas. It will, however, be a complete defence to show that "adequate procedures" were in place to prevent bribery. In March the UK government published guidance on what measures are likely to be considered "adequate", giving businesses 3 months to put the necessary arrangements in place.
The Act also codifies existing anti-Bribery law by introducing:
- A general offence targeting the payer of a bribe.
- A general offence targeting the recipient of a bribe; and
- A specific offence prohibiting the bribery of foreign public officials.
The scope of the Bribery Act is potentially very wide. Concern has been voiced over the approach that will be taken in practice; in particular in relation to hospitality, to facilitation payments, and to businesses which have limited links to the UK. The way in which the Act is enforced by the prosecuting authorities, and interpreted by the Courts will, over time, begin to paint a better picture for businesses of the real risks they face. The team at Fieldfisher will be following these developments closely over the coming months. We will be providing regular commentary and updates of our Enforcement Trends publication.
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