The new Bribery Act came into force on 1st July 2011. It has a dramatic impact on the criminal exposure of corporations, partnerships and senior personnel that do business in the UK. Companies and individuals found guilty of any of the offences in the Bribery Act 2010 will be liable for significant fines, which may be unlimited in respect of the corporate offence. Individuals will also be liable to a term of imprisonment up to a maximum of 10 years.
The Bribery Act provides for:
- Offences of giving and receiving bribes, in both the public and private sectors;
- An offence of bribing a foreign public official;
- Corporate liability for failing to prevent bribery;
- Personal criminal liability for senior officers of a company that commits a bribery offence with the consent or the connivance of that senior officer – this includes, for example directors, managers and company secretaries.
The new Bribery Act firmly places the responsibility on organisations to ensure that their anti-corruption procedures will protect them from potential criminal liability and unlimited fines. Companies will not only be responsible for the activities of their employees, but also of their agents and affiliates. This will require enhanced due diligence and systems and controls of those working with you. Protecting yourself and your company demands a robust approach to corporate governance to address the new changes to the law. Areas of particular concern include corporate hospitality, facilitation and payments and commissions.
We have substantial experience in representing individual suspects and witnesses of interest to UK and foreign agencies investigating alleged corruption and bribery. The firm also handles internal company investigations, acting for witnesses as well as for companies, sometimes in conjunction with teams of other lawyers in the UK and internationally.
UK investigations are usually undertaken by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in conjunction with the police. In other cases, the Crown Prosecution Service or the Financial Services Authority may also be involved. We have acted in many of these investigations either for witnesses compelled to assist the SFO or for suspects.