Though a powerful tool, the Section 7 Bribery Act offense can be stymied by the impracticalities of cross-border evidence gathering. The key to overcoming that challenge is self-reporting.
The United Kingdom's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has a new weapon: the Section 7 UK Bribery Act offense, which allows the SFO to prosecute companies for failing to prevent bribery by its "associated persons." Because many UK companies, and foreign companies that carry on any part of their business in the UK, also operate on a global scale, the SFO has been given a passport to prosecute conduct all around the world.
But international conduct brings its own challenges. Aside from the obvious practical issues—including resources and time—bribery and corruption allegations often occur in high-risk jurisdictions, saddling the SFO with fundamental evidence-gathering challenges.
The investigation of international conduct forces the SFO to rely on procedurally slow technical and bureaucratic channels to obtain foreign evidence. To obtain the evidence, the SFO relies on the existence of treaties between the UK and the third-party jurisdiction, the effectiveness of international Letters of Request and the political and diplomatic willingness of those in the foreign country.
Even when the SFO is able to gather sufficient foreign evidence to charge a company, the public demand for holding not only companies, but also people, accountable for criminal acts forces the SFO to attempt to bring foreign-based individuals into English courtrooms through a long, drawn-out extradition process.
The SFO relies upon the threat of prosecution for offenses of bribery and corruption to pressure companies to provide a self-report setting out the findings of any wrongdoing. The self-report has the added benefits of providing the SFO with an evidential platform from which to mount a prosecution against a company and individuals, and removing some obstacles the SFO would otherwise face in investigating international conduct.