The Bribery Act - it's on its way!
Make no mistake - it’s coming. Although the new Bribery Act has been temporarily postponed, it will soon become an offence to make (or offer to make) payment to any person, where it is "improper" for that person to accept the payment, or where the payment is intended to cause the recipient to perform his duties "improperly".
Many businesses are, quite rightly, concerned about where the boundary lies. Is taking a good customer to the races acceptable? Is accepting a free flight to see a new manufacturing plant overseas going to be unacceptable?
The difference between rewarding a good customer or supplier for past business, and tempting a customer or supplier into new business, becomes absolutely crucial. The distinction is often blurred, and not helped by the UK Government’s delay in publishing guidance to explain how the loosely-worded Act will apply.
International complications - Things are, of course, complicated further in international trade, where bribery laws differ between countries. For example, buying products from a Swedish company will also require compliance with (strict) Swedish anti-bribery laws. It is not always obvious when a gift or payment of any kind could amount to bribery abroad.
Perhaps of most concern is the new offence of failing to prevent bribery from occurring. In addition to actually offering a bribe, a company can find itself in breach of the Act unless it can demonstrate it has taken reasonable steps to prevent bribery from occurring. And as with many things these days, that involves a policy. Every employer is strongly advised to adopt an Anti-Bribery Policy at the very least. No exceptions.
The consequences of failure? An unlimited fine for companies and up to 10 years in prison for individuals. There’s no better incentive for getting this right…
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.