News & what's on - Written by on Thursday, May 30, 2013 15:11 - 0 Comments

Possible Bribery Act review: Now is not the time to bring back Arthur Daley

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Don’t be fooled.  Stories about a possible review of the Bribery Act are nothing new.  In fact parliament signalled a review months ago.

Back in March we reported that in the report “Roads to Success: SME Exports” the House of Lords committee on small and medium-sized enterprises called for urgent scrutiny of the Bribery Act by a parliamentary select committee claiming that the Bribery Act has met with“confusion and uncertainty.”

It’s no surprise then that a review could be in the offing.  It would have been more surprising if it wasn’t.

We commented in March that we thought the report was based upon very shaky foundations.  Our headline said it all: “Parliament report calls for Bribery Act review: Our opinion – Junk in. Junk out.”

Our view hasn’t changed.

Opinion(s)

Given there has not been a corporate prosecution under the Bribery Act then it seems to us premature to consider a review.

While some (but not all) advisers have engaged in scaremongering to generate work, on the other hand, claims from UK PLC about a lack of guidance around the Bribery Act ring hollow.

Suggestions that under the Bribery Act you can’t take someone to lunch are just plain silly.

The truth is compliance should be proportionate.  For SME’s, broadly speaking, compliance should not be onerous or costly.  There is already plenty of free guidance available.

We remain concerned by general complacency surrounding anti—corruption compliance.

More importantly though, in our view, a focus on the Bribery Act completely misses the real commercial issue for UK companies.

Anti-corruption compliance is now a global issue.

The biggest trend we have seen over the last two years is the  global companies who increasingly seek to push compliance down their supply chain as they seek to impose their own anti-corruption policies (including a prohibition on facilitation payments) on their suppliers and partners.

The facilitation payment prohibition is imposed by them not because of the Bribery Act – but because it is considered too complicated to police a corporate compliance regime where some bribes are allowed if they are ‘facilitation payments’.

Why? Because no-one can really be certain whether something is a ‘facilitation payment’ or not.  Faced with this dilemma ethical global corporations are taking the safest course of action and banning all bribes.

The Bribery Act served to draw attention to anti-corruption compliance.

But, we kid ourselves if we think that alone it has driven global companies to impose anti-corruption compliance programs.  With or without the Bribery Act UK companies wishing to trade with serious global players will be forced to confirm anti-bribery compliance standards.

If UK PLC wants to compete on a world stage it will need to comply with global anti-corruption standards.

Relegating the importance of anti-corruption compliance would be parochial and risks relegating UK PLC to the third division in a global context.

Much as we love him – now isn’t the time to bring back Arthur Daley.

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