Although not directed at trustees of pension schemes, the Bribery Act 2010 does create offences which could be relevant to trustees.
The basic offences
For both individual trustees and for corporate trustees, the two offences that could apply are that of giving a bribe or receiving a bribe. The former is unlikely to be relevant, but trustees are recommended to consider whether any steps need to be taken to avoid the offence of receiving a bribe. This would not need to be significant action, but it may be sensible to minute considering this at an upcoming meeting, or adding a line to an existing risk register or conflicts policy.
Corporate offence applying to corporate trustees?
Corporate trustees may have to consider the further offence of failing to prevent bribery. This offence is committed if a service provider, whilst performing services for the corporate trustee, bribes another person to obtain or retain either business or a business advantage for the corporate trustee.
There is some uncertainty as to whether this further offence is relevant to corporate trustees of pension schemes as the corporate trustee has to undertake ‘commercial activity’ to be caught. However, professional trustee companies are likely to be caught, and many commentators are taking the approach of recommending action be taken by all corporate trustees to minimise any risk.
The main way of doing this is to take action to put in place ‘adequate procedures’ to prevent bribery, as this is a defence to the charge. Although many corporate trustees will take the view that committing this offence is unlikely anyway, it may nevertheless be worth them considering addressing this issue with their providers by, for example, asking for a copy of their anti-bribery policy or details of measures taken by them to prevent bribery.