The United Kingdom’s Long-Awaited Anti Bribery Law Will Come Into Force On July 1, 2011


The Ministry of Justice and the Directors of the Serious Fraud Office and Office of Public Prosecutions Release Guidance Intended to Explain the Application of the Anti-Bribery Law

Twelve years ago, the United Kingdom ratified the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) Anti-Bribery Convention. Since that time, the UK has been widely criticized for its lax efforts at combating commercial bribery, including its failure to enact implementing legislation. In response, on April 8, 2010, the UK enacted a far-reaching anti-bribery statute, the Bribery Act 2010, which applies broadly to companies or partnerships incorporated in, or with business activities in, the UK, as well as to UK nationals and residents.

The Bribery Act originally was scheduled to become effective in October 2010 but, after a series of delays, on March 30, 2011, the Ministry of Justice issued its long-anticipated “Bribery Act 2010: Guidance” and announced that the act now will take effect on July 1, 2011. As provided by Section 9 of the act, the Bribery Act Guidance addresses “procedures which ‘relevant commercial organisations’ can put into place to prevent persons associated with them from bribing.” At the same time, the UK’s authorities responsible for enforcing the Bribery Act issued a separate document entitled “Bribery Act 2010: Joint Prosecution Guidance of the Director of the Serious Fraud Office and the Director of Public Prosecutions,” which outlines the factors UK prosecutors should consider in deciding whether to bring charges under the act. While neither the Bribery Act Guidance nor the Prosecution Guidance amends or modifies the statute, together they provide some insight into how British prosecutors will interpret the act and apply their prosecutorial discretion in deciding what cases to pursue. Both guidance documents suggest that prosecutorial decisions will be impacted by a commercial entity’s implementation of robust compliance programs, as well as self-reporting and cooperation by companies and individuals with government investigations.

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