Today the UK Bribery Act came into force; introducing tough new laws on the making and receiving of bribes, as well as on the failure to take sufficient steps to prevent bribery occurring. 

So let's recap what exactly this new legislation is all about:-

What is the new law?

The Bribery Act 2010 is amongst some of the strictest bribery legislation worldwide, creating the following 4 bribery offences:-

  • Section 1: offence of bribing another person (the "active offence")
  • Section 2: offence of being bribed (the "passive offence")  
  • Section 6: offence of bribing a Foreign Public Official  
  • Section 7: corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery.

Whom does it affect?

Almost everyone! It applies to both individuals and companies. One important aspect of the new legislation is its broad extra-territorial extent. This is important as not only does the Act apply to UK businesses wherever they operate, it also applies to non-UK businesses with a presence in the UK.

Penalties for non-compliance?

  • Unlimited fines;  
  • Prison sentences of up to 10 years;  
  • Potential blacklisting of businesses from public sector contracts; and  
  • Directors' disqualification.

Failing to prevent bribery

The Bribery Act creates a new strict liability offence of failure to prevent bribery. Under the Act, a company will be liable if anyone acting under its authority commits a bribery offence.  Such persons could include your employees, consultants, agents, subsidiaries and joint venture partners to name a few. The only likely defence is where a company has adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery offences. Guidance on Adequate Procedures is available here.

For further guidance on how your business can ensure compliance with the Bribery Act 2010 please see our current guidance.