The U.K. Passes the Bribery Act Creating Several New Anti-Corruption Offenses, Including “Strict” Criminal Liability

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A major development in the enforcement and prosecution of overseas bribery occurred last week with the long awaited passage of the U.K.’s Bribery Act. The Act, which received royal assent last Thursday, creates several new anti-corruption offenses that could impact companies doing business in the United Kingdom, including a new “strict liability” offense that could apply if a company fails to stop bribery from being committed on its behalf anywhere in the world. Although the Bribery Act is not yet in effect, it is expected to be implemented later this year after the United Kingdom’s scheduled parliamentary elections and the government issues guidance on the new Act.

The Bribery Act modernizes the U.K’s approach to overseas and domestic corruption by updating and coalescing the often ineffectual patchwork quilt of anti-corruption laws the United Kingdom formerly had on its books, many of which dated from the 1880s. Portions of the new law dealing with overseas bribery bear many similarities to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Like the FCPA, the Bribery Act makes it illegal to bribe a foreign official, prohibiting anyone from offering, promising, or providing any advantage to a foreign official, or to another person at the request of the foreign official, for purposes of influencing that foreign official in order to obtain or retain any business advantage.

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