As discussed previously in this newsletter, the Bribery Act 2010 received Royal Assent in April last year and was supposed to be implemented in April this year. The aim of the Act is to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of the battle against bribery and to meet the UK's obligations under the terms of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.
One of the most significant new offences under the Act is a corporate offence of failure to prevent bribery by persons working on behalf of a business. A business can avoid prosecution if it can show it had "adequate procedures" in place to prevent bribery. The government was due to publish final guidance as to what would constitute adequate procedures for these purposes by the end of January, with the Act then being implemented in April.
During January, however, a number of newspaper reports asserted that there were plans to look again at certain provisions of the Act on the basis that neither the Act nor the guidance provided enough detail or reassurance on how to prevent being caught under the legislation, particularly in relation to facilitation payments, corporate hospitality and bribery of foreign public officials, and that lack of such clarity would be harmful to the competitiveness of British businesses. The government confirmed that the legislation would be considered as part of the 'Growth Review', which is a joint Treasury and BIS review looking to ease the regulatory burden on business. However, no formal announcement was made that significant changes would be made to the legislation and indeed it seems unlikely that material amendments will be made. Although the Bribery Act was passed at a very late stage of the last Parliament, it had cross-party support.
The 31 January deadline for the formal guidance passed and reports again began to circulate that the implementation of the Act would be delayed. Again there has been no formal announcement so we will have to wait and see what happens on timing, although it seems clear that, as there will be a lead-in time of three months following publication of the guidance, the April deadline will slip.
Once the final guidance is published we will be running another seminar on its implications for business as a follow-up to our successful event in November 2010.
In the meantime you can link through to a very comprehensive review of anti-corruption activities across the globe in 2010, which contains detailed information about the provisions of the Bribery Act, prepared by the Hogan Lovells Bribery and Corruption Task Force.