UK bribery rules republished as SFO reaffirms commitment to enforcementNovember 2012
The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO)has reaffirmed its commitment to enforce the Bribery Act when it last month republished guidance on enforcement.
The move comes in the wake of the removal of guidance from its website on 1 October, sparking fears in the business community of a crackdown on corporate hospitality and facilitation payments.
The new guidance is very similar to that which was removed, with the exception of its advice on self-reporting. Previously, its position was that companies which ‘self-reported’ corrupt practices might be treated more leniently than otherwise, but the new guidance reiterates that self-reporting is no guarantee against prosecution.
The SFO says that, for a self-report to be taken into consideration, it must form part of a “genuinely proactive approach by the corporate management team”.
Meanwhile, corporate hospitality will be considered a legitimate business practice, provided it is ‘proportionate’.
And though facilitation payments, which many companies operating abroad claim are necessary to enable business development, will continue to be regarded as bribes ‘regardless of their size or frequency’. However, companies are unlikely to be prosecuted unless there is evidence that such payments are systematic.
Risk advisers Maplecroft said: “The fact that the SFO has gone to the lengths to republish the guidance reiterates that it remains committed to enforcing the Act and that UK-based companies should take considered steps to mitigate the risk of legal action.”
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