Are you sure? If you were operating in the UK, up until April of this year, all you had to worry about was the Prevention of Corruption Acts, which haven’t changed much since 1916. And keeping compliant with those acts was pretty easy as long as your employees in the UK didn’t bribe or accept bribes, as it wasn’t until the introduction of the Anti-terrorism, Crime, and Security Act 2001 that extended it to cases where neither the agent’s nor the principal’s affairs had connection with the UK.
But now, with the new Bribery Act, you have to worry about all types of bribery at home or abroad. It may have taken some time, but the UK has finally caught up with the other members of the OECD and adopted many of the recommendations of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. As per the Ministry of Justice, the new act, among other things:
- provides a more effective legal framework to combat bribery in the public or private sectors,
- creates two general offences covering the offering, promising or giving of an advantage, and requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting of an advantage
- creates a discrete offence of bribery of a foreign public official
- creates a new offence of failure by a commercial organization to prevent a bribe being paid for or on its behalf.
That’s right, unless you have adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery, if a bribe is paid for or on your behalf, you are in violation of the act and can be charged. Thus, as per this article in CPO Agenda that asks [if] your procurement policies stand up to the demands of the new Bribery Act, burying your head in the sand is not an option since a failure to prevent a bribe could be a fine that runs into millions of pounds as well as a custodial sentence. Plus, even if you are a US subsidiary, or have a US subsidiary, and are completely in compliance with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), it may not be enough. For example, while both the FCPA and the UK Bribery Act prohibit the bribery of foreign public officials, the UK act also prohibits commercial bribery.
So where do you start?
The CPO Agenda article recommends starting with the internal control framework established by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission, or COSO, that was set up in the 90s to provide guidance on governance, business ethics, internal control, enterprise risk management, fraud, and financial reporting. It’s a good start, but I’d also recommend bringing in an expert consultant.