Understanding the Bribery Act 2010
The Bribery Act 2010 (the Act) was passed to ensure the UK’s compliance with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and came into force on 1 July 2011. It is designed to provide an effective legal framework to tackle corruption in both the public and private sectors.
There was an enormous amount of controversy surrounding the Act when it came into force. It defined a bribe as; to "offer, promise or give a financial advantage or other advantage, to another person to bring about improper performance of a relevant function or an activity, or to reward a person for the improper performance of a relevant function or an activity".
Many corporate solicitors feared that companies could be punished because they had not invested properly in compliance processes, rather than the fact they deliberately intended to gain a commercial advantage through committing a bribe.
Initial fears did not come to pass and there have been relatively few prosecutions under the Act. This may be because many companies have dramatically improved their compliance processes. However, it is crucial that businesses understand their responsibilities under the Act, to avoid the harsh penalties associated with breaching it.
What new offences did the Act create?
The Act introduced four new offences:
- bribing another person
- soliciting or accepting a bribe
- bribing a foreign public official, and
- (for a business) failing to prevent bribery
Common to each of these offences are:
- a (financial or other) advantage is given, promised or requested, and
- the improper performance of a function or activity
What jurisdictions does the Act cover?
The Act covers bribery offences that are committed in the UK. They also cover offences committed internationally if the person or organisation committing the offence was a British citizen or settled person in the UK, an entity incorporated in the UK or a Scottish partnership.
Can I accept gifts?
Gifts and hospitality may be caught where they are lavish and/or non-routine, as that may induce the recipient to act improperly. Political donations and other payments may also be caught.
What are the penalties under the Act?
The following penalties apply for breach of the Act:
- individuals may be subject to unlimited fines, and/or up to ten years' imprisonment
- companies may be subject to unlimited fines and may be excluded from public procurement exercises in the UK (Public Contracts Regulations 2015, SI 2015/102)
- directors may also be disqualified from acting as a director for between two and 15 years
The Sentencing Council has also produced definitive guidelines for the sentencing of fraud, bribery and money laundering offences, called the Sentencing Guidelines for Corporate Offences.
If you require legal advice regarding complying with the Bribery Act 2010 or you have been charged with an offence under the Act. You can search for a solicitor at Solicitors Guru today.
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