The Bribery Act – Business owners beware

Year Published: 2011

The Bribery Act 2010 came into force on the 1st July 2011 and has introduced changes that will have a significant impact on all businesses. It is therefore vital that business owners take this piece of legislation seriously.

Businesses would be well advised to introduce appropriate measures to ensure that there is widespread awareness of the new act within their organisations and to put in place the appropriate measures to protect against liability.

Previously, the criminal act of bribery was confined to transactions involving public officials whereas; the new Act has extended the crime of bribery to all private sector transactions.

The Act has introduced the new offence of ‘failing to prevent bribery’. A company or a partnership will commit the corporate offence if an ‘associated person’, namely a person performing services on its behalf, such as employees or self employed consultants or agents, bribe another to obtain or retain business or a business advantage… for the benefit of the company.

The only defence available to the business is that it has put in place adequate procedures to prevent a bribery being committed by those providing the services in its name.

It is interesting to note that if the prosecution proves that a bribe has been paid for the benefit of the company, the burden of proof then shifts to the company/partnership to prove that it had adequate and appropriate procedures in place to prevent such activities.

If a business falls foul of the new Act those managing the business potentially face a custodial sentence of up to 10 years and/or an unlimited fine.

In view of the above, it is vital that all businesses ensure that they have in place credible and validated anti-bribery policies and procedures that are communicated and practiced both internally and externally.

A good starting point to ensure compliance is to make sure that all trading documentation, such as;

  • trading terms and conditions;
  • sales and purchase agreements;
  • agency and consultancy agreements; and
  • employment contracts;

are compliant and contain the necessary provisions to protect your enterprise. Failure to comply could prove to be an exceptionally dangerous strategy!

For further information please contact Kaye Whitby in our Corporate team on 0844 391 5829.

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