At the end of January the Government announced that implementation of the new Bribery Act (originally scheduled for April 2011) would be delayed. Although no new date has been announced it is still important that UK businesses (and those with operations in the UK) start to prepare for the new legislation, taking account of the draft guidance issued last year.
UK businesses have expressed significant concerns about the Act, particularly in terms of its potential to place them (and those operating in the UK who may fall within its remit) at a competitive disadvantage. The Government is currently finalising the guidance, taking into consideration comments received during the consultation period. It is also reviewing the Act as part of a wider legislative review being led by the Chancellor.
The draft guidance is available here. Nabarro participated in the consultation process and submitted a formal response to the Ministry of Justice. Our summary of the guidance and a commentary: “Anticorruption: A practical guide for business” can be found here. For further resources go to: www.nabarro.com/bribery-act
Current feedback from the MOJ suggests that the revised draft guidance will expand its direction on the terms of the procedures businesses need to put in place, for corporate hospitality and dealing with Foreign Public Officials.
Implementation and preparation
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has said that the Act will not come into force until at least three months after the final guidance is published. It is anticipated that the revised guidance will be issued imminently. When the Act comes into effect, we don’t envisage an immediate flurry of prosecutions. However, it is clear that the Serious Fraud Office expects organisations to be taking active steps to combat the risk of bribery. Those that do not do so are unlikely to meet a sympathetic response and the same will apply to their directors (who may be personally liable for any offence).