Following the Government’s decision to delay the introduction of the Bribery Act 2010, we are left awaiting the guidance which will supposedly clear up the uncertainties about acceptable levels of corporate hospitality and the extent of responsibility for actions of “associated persons”, such as joint venture partners and subcontractors.
The Government faces intense pressure from business representatives, including the CBI, to clarify the scope of the Act and to ensure it doesn’t undermine UK competition for overseas business. On the other hand, international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Corporate Governance Network have called on the Government to honour international commitments and not dilute the legislation.
The Telegraph has recently reported that the new guidance will make concessions on a number of the areas of concern to businesses, including:-
- confirming that reasonable hospitality will not be caught by the new rules (and providing examples of what is acceptable); and
- giving some scope for joint venture partners to avoid liability for their partners’ actions where they can show they have not benefited from a bribe.
The Government has indicated that it wishes to issue the new guidance in “weeks not months”. Once the guidance has been published there will be a minimum of three months before the Act is brought into force.
For organisations which have considered the issue already, and are waiting to finalise their approach, there is little more that can be done until the guidance is published. For organisations which have yet to address the issue in any detail, we’d suggest that there are a number of preparatory steps which could be usefully done now in areas where the guidance is unlikely to be of great assistance, such as reviewing the adequacy of your existing policies and procedures in this area; and assessing the risk profile and potential areas of exposure for your business.