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The UK Bribery Act

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Companies that fail to institute procedures to prevent their employees, agents and other associated individuals from engaging in bribery are on warning. As a resounding win for anti-bribery proponents, Parliament passed the United Kingdom Bribery Act on April 8, 2010, and additional guidance was issued by the UK Ministry of Justice on March 30, 2011. To protect themselves, organizations must institute “adequate procedures” to prevent employees and other associated individuals from engaging in bribery.

External UK Bribery Act Resources

The Act repeals all previous statutory and common law provisions in relation to bribery, instead replacing them with the crimes of bribery, being bribed, the bribery of foreign public officials, and the failure of a commercial organization to prevent bribery on its behalf. In addition, the offense does not have to occur within the UK to be subject to prosecution and penalties. The Bribery Act does not make any exception for the local custom or practice where the offense takes place. Penalties include prison time for individuals and steep fines for individuals and organizations alike.

Much like the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the UK Bribery Act criminalizes paying a bribe to a foreign public official. The UK Bribery Act also applies to any organization that does business in the U.K. or with U.K. counterparties. However, unlike the FCPA, the UK Bribery Act penalizes corporations for failing to prevent bribery made for their benefit.

To be protected, organizations must have in place “adequate procedures” designed to prevent bribery are in place. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the UK’s enforcement authority, is formulating guidance for businesses regarding the proper scope of adequate procedures and the extent to which it will exercise prosecutorial discretion under the new legislation.

Organizations should review their governance and compliance programs to ensure that systems are in place for detecting and deterring corporate malfeasance such as multiple intake and ethics hotline systems, incident management applications and ethics communications campaigns.

Code for Corporate Governance under The UK Bribery Act

While the UK has not issued specific guidance for hotlines, it has revised its Combined Code for Corporate Governance in light of Sarbanes-Oxley and the financial scandals that gave rise to it by including a provision (C.3.4) for employees to report concerns in confidence.

Contact us to learn more about ethics & compliance programs that can protect you and your organization from issues involving bribery.

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