As its name suggests, the Bribery Act 2010 (the "Act") (and its explanatory guidance) is concerned with preventing bribery.

Bribery is the provision of a financial or other advantage to induce the person receiving the bribe to perform their functions or activities improperly or to reward that person for having already done so. Bird & Bird have produced a briefing note explaining the main provisions of the Act, its impact on SMEs and the importance of businesses putting in place effective anti-bribery procedures that are proportionate to their risk profile.

The penalties for committing a bribery offence can include unlimited fines and imprisonment for individuals involved. Despite these significant risks, a recent report commissioned by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) highlighted a considerable lack of awareness of the Act among SMEs. Only 56% of SMEs had heard of the Act, and of those who had heard of it a mere 26% were aware of the accompanying guidance issued by the MoJ. More worryingly, only 33% of SMEs had carried out bribery risk assessments and only 42% had taken preventative measures to prevent bribery in their business.

Businesses must be mindful of the dangers of falling foul of the provisions of the Act and the potentially severe consequences arising from this. In particular, SMEs which conduct business abroad should be aware of the broad extra jurisdictional reach of the Act which could result in potential liability for bribery offences committed both within the UK and around the world.