A Guide to the Bribery Act 2010: What it means for UK Businesses

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The new Bribery Act 2010 is due to come in to force in April 2011. The Act is intended as a wholesale reform of the old bribery laws which were a complicated and confusing combination of statutory and common law offences from more than 100 years development of law in this area. The need for reform was widely acknowledged, however, the final result may have alarming consequences for corporate entities operating in the U.K as many law abiding businesses could inadvertently break the new law if they are not careful.

Offences Under The Act:

The Act re-classifies the basic bribery offences of bribing another person and receiving a bribe whilst also introducing two new offences. The first of these is in respect of bribery of a foreign public official. Additionally the Act also creates an offence for corporate entities of failing to prevent bribery occurring within their organisation. The only defence to this is if the corporate entity has put in place “adequate procedures” designed to stop incidences of corruption. This offence applies to any corporate entity that carries on its business, or even part of its business, within the U.K.

The penalties can be extremely severe. Individuals could face a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine if found guilty. Corporate entities may face an unlimited fine in respect of an offence under the Act.

Facilitation Payments and Corporate Hospitality

A facilitation payment is usually a payment to a government official to speed up a routine bureaucratic action. These are illegal under the Act. However the decision to prosecute will be at the prosecutor’s discretion and he/she will consider various factors including whether it is in the public interest to prosecute.

Most concerning however is that prosecutorial discretion will also have to be relied on in respect of corporate hospitality, which may fall foul of the Act.

Read More: A Guide to The Bribery Act 2010: http://bit.ly/fLqCP7

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