Construction, MENA (Middle East & North Africa) - Written by on Thursday, February 10, 2011 14:26 - 2 Comments

Burying your head in the sand won’t change the SFO’s aggressive anti corruption enforcement

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In recent weeks there has been much media coverage over the Bribery Act, questions over its entry into force and if it does whether it will be watered down.

UK business groups have lobbied for clearer guidance around what might constitute the requirements to invoke the defence under the new law and companies watch and wait to see the outcome of the debate.

We have said repeatedly that the wait and see approach is a flawed strategy for three reasons.

1. The Bribery Act will enter into force

In our view it is inconceivable that the Bribery Act will not enter into force.  In spite of numerous attacks in recent weeks on the Bribery Act official statements from government have been consistent in affirming that corruption is unacceptable.

Recent references to the Bribery Act have been to a delay in its entry into force.  No-one in government is saying that it is going to be moth-balled.

Against this backdrop the only prudent thing to do is to prepare for it.

There is plenty of information (if anything too much) available on what will constitute Adequate Procedures under the new law and claims that organisations must wait for the guidance don’t hold water.

2. The SFO is already on the march

The SFO is already investigating and prosecuting corruption cases and has significantly increased enforcement activity in this area in the last couple of years.  The SFO makes numerous public pronouncements that it is already investigating and policing corruption.  Only today two more directors were found guilty by a jury of involvement in an illegal kick back scheme which they denied knowledge of.  Their company had pleaded guilty and paid multi million pound fines.

Why wait to put in place procedures which will protect your organisation and yourself from legal risk which exists now?

3. The international community is placing pressure on the UK to prosecute corruption

The international community expects the UK to continue the upward trajectory in the prosecution of corruption.  A week ago at the SEC Speaks conference in New York Cheryl Scarboro of the SEC reiterated that Cross-border collaboration of regulators is imperative to continued FCPA enforcement. Scarboro stated that she and the staff expect an increased number of actions by the SFO.

When the delay was announced the Chairman of the OECD working group on bribery expressed disappointment and referenced earlier threats of the potential blacklisting of UK companies if the UK did not make good on its international agreement to toughen its stance on corruption.

Our objective is to ensure that individuals and businesses avoid unnecessary legal exposure.  We advocate that organisations put in place procedures to prevent bribery today.  If this is done then if a problem does arise the corporate and its directors will be in a strong position to avoid prosecution and we will have plenty of ammunition to defend and protect.

What are you waiting for?

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Don’t bank on long deferral of UK Bribery Act nor hold strange and unjustified expectations of precision in its definitions « e-Disclosure Information Project
Feb 11, 2011 8:22

[…] close with two articles published today. has one headed Burying your head in the sand won’t change the SFO’s aggressive anti corruption enforcement making the point, amongst others, that bribery is already an offence. Howard Sklar’s article The […] – The Bribery Act: Coming soon & compliance won’t cost millions
Feb 16, 2011 1:46

[…] danger of the Bribery Act not entering into force.  Hinting at international pressure from the US (predictably) placed on the UK following the recent media storm over the new law Mr. Clarke […]

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