If as a pension scheme trustee, flying abroad to watch the rugby world cup with your investment advisers or kicking back at the opera with your actuary is your perfect treat, you need to read on. On 1 July 2011 the Bribery Act 2010 came into force. It overhauls the criminal offence of bribery and does not exempt either corporate trustees or individual pension scheme trustees from its scope! Offences under the Bribery Act may result in hefty fines and/or imprisonment.

The Act contains two general bribery offences of giving and, separately, receiving a bribe. For trustees, the main area of concern will be corporate hospitality. In the main, accepting dinner and a trip to the opera is unlikely to lead to issues but a trip to New Zealand for the rugby would be more problematic.

The Act also introduces the new corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery. The aim of the new offence is to make commercial organisations responsible for failing to prevent bribery committed on their behalf by associated persons e.g. employees or agents. However, a defence can be run if the organisation can show that it put in place ‘adequate procedures’ for preventing bribery.

The Ministry of Justice has produced a useful guide on procedures that could be put in place to prevent people associated with commercial organisations from committing bribery. The guide explains what the prosecution would need to prove in order for an allegation of bribery to succeed i.e. the hospitality in question must be intended to induce conduct amounting to a breach of an expectation that the individual will act in good faith, impartially, or in accordance with a position of trust. Case study 4 in the guide specifically considers hospitality and is well worth reading. Usefully, it contains some sensible practical suggestions for ‘adequate procedures’.  

Action needed?

If you have an existing policy on corporate hospitality:  

  • Does each individual trustee/trustee director understand the scheme’s policy?  
  • Are agreed procedures being followed and the hospitality register kept up to date?  
  • Do you keep the position under review?  
  • Are new trustees told about the procedures and how to update the register?  

If you do not have an existing policy on corporate hospitality:  

  • Discuss and agree what your procedures will be and who will keep the hospitality register. How will you monitor whether the procedures are being followed?  
  • Be proportionate - you should discuss and agree procedures for accepting (or not) invitations for corporate hospitality and gifts  

Technical Information

The Bribery Act 2010 can be found at: www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/23/contents The Bribery Act 2010 - guidance can be accessed at: www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/ guidance/making-reviewing-law/bribery-act-2010-guidance.pdf