UK Passes Strict New Bribery Act

Earlier this year, we noted that other countries, in addition to the United States, are increasing their efforts to combat international bribery and corruption. (See “Increasing International Cooperation and Other Key Trends in Anti-Corruption Investigations“). In a further reflection of this trend, on April 8, 2010, the United Kingdom passed the Bribery Act 2010 (read the act here). The Act is in many respects even broader in scope than the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including in its extraterritorial application. Thus, every company with ties to the U.K. should become familiar with the Bribery Act’s provisions.

The Bribery Act criminalizes several different types of domestic and foreign bribery including: (i) offering, promising or giving a bribe (section 1); (ii) requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe (section 2); and (iii) bribing a foreign public official (section 6).However, section 7, which sanctions any failure by commercial organizations to prevent bribery,may be the most significant provision. Under that section, a corporation will be liable when a person “associated” with that company (defined in section 8 as a person who “performs services for or on behalf” of the company) pays a bribe for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business or to obtain or retain a business advantage. The company can defend itself only if it can establish that it “had in place adequate procedures designed to prevent persons associated with [the company]from undertaking such conduct.” Thus, unlike in the U.S., where prosecutors apply their discretion in evaluating a company’s compliance policies and procedures in the context of weighing charging decisions and potential leniency, the statute establishes strict liability in the case of a bribe being paid for companies that failed to implement adequate compliance policies and procedures….(continue reading)

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