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24th National Conference on the FCPA: International investigations, the Bribery Act & an enforcement warning

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In case you had any doubt international investigations are on the rise.  So said the representatives from the US Department of Justice, UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Munich Public Prosecutors office in a panel moderated by Mark Mendelsohn.

The statement is not an idle threat.  Siemens, BAE, Innospec, Mabey & Johnson, the list of recent cases involving international co-operation goes on and on.

It is clear that there are others in the pipeline.  The DOJ and the SFO very publicly say time and time again (the links are to a couple of recent examples) that they liaise closely together.

The statements of co-operation are reminisent of the references to the “special relationship” between the US and the UK which were frequently made when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were in power and continue, to a lesser extent, to be made today.

It was clear from the panel that the German prosecution authorities are also working hand in glove with the DOJ and SFO in the fight against corruption.

High risk of being caught

In a warning to the overseas audience Vivian Robinson QC also scotched some of the myths around the Bribery Act.

There has been scepticism among some members of the business community: the essence of their view is that the risk of violators of the Bribery Act getting caught is low.

Noting increased communication, international co-operation, whistleblowers and the effectiveness of the SFO’s own investigators (25% of the SFO’s cases are self generated) Mr Robinson said this was a dangerous assumption.

A warning to organisations competing with UK businesses

Some have complained that the new Bribery Act is a way of protecting UK businesses by penalising foreign competitors.

In a warning to overseas organisations who unfairly compete with UK business using bribery Mr. Robinson said that the SFO would use the UK’s long arm jurisdiction and the new failure to prevent bribery offence under the Bribery Act to prosecute foreign businesses who “undercut” UK corporates using corruption.

Add all this up and it is a potent mix.  Organisations using bribery to unfairly compete with UK businesses are on notice that the SFO intends to go after them using its new powers when the Bribery Act enters into force next April.

Want to know more or concerned about compliance?

If you are concerned about the application of the Bribery Act and your business contact us.

We’re also running a number of industry specific masterclasses in the new year. For details of our sector specific masterclasses please contact us as spaces are filling up and we have limited capacity.

In the new year we shall also be running a further webinar with Vivian Robinson QC General Counsel of the SFO. For more details on our webinar next year with Vivian Robinson QC watch this space.

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