The UK Serious Frauds Office (SFO) recently won its first overseas corruption victory convicting two individuals of a conspiracy to commit corruption. The case originally began six years ago with a referral by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) following an investigation by DOJ and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). This jury verdict now concludes the UK’s lengthy corruption investigations, which also led to guilty pleas by two other individuals and their corporate employer.
The case involves a bribery scheme to secure contracts with the Indonesian government to supply products containing Tetraethyl Lead or TEL, a highly dangerous compound used as an octane booster for engine fuel. Leaded fuel — fuel containing TEL — was banned in the UK in 2000 due to links between the compound and severe neurological damage. Although the Indonesian government also wished to ban TEL, the defendants' bribery scheme impeded its efforts and significantly extended the use of the dangerous additive in that country.
As this case highlights, bribery and corruption threaten an increasingly globalized economy and lead to damaging consequences — human rights violations, environmental damage, distorted markets and a lower quality of life for many. While the U.S. has historically led global anti-corruption enforcement, the world community as whole has recently heightened efforts to combat corruption with a proliferation of stronger domestic anti-bribery laws and enforcement actions.
Global corporations must now comply with a variety of anti-corruption laws including the FCPA, the UK Bribery Act, Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention. Increased international cooperation makes it easier for regulators to conduct parallel investigations and enforce these laws which can serve as a strong deterrent to bribery at the local level.
Organizations can avoid penalties, fines and reputational damage associated with bribery and corruption violations by implementing and enforcing an anti-corruption policy and culture.