Construction, Extractive (incl. oil & gas) - Written by on Thursday, March 31, 2011 23:32 - 1 Comment

Richard Alderman: SFO wants to give corporates certainty

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We continue our series of Q & A with Richard Alderman in the wake of the publication of the guidance around the Bribery Act this week.

One question we are frequently posed revolves around certainty for corporates who find themselves discussing bribery related problems with the SFO.

We asked Richard Alderman about the SFO’s stance following some vey public criticism from the courts, Question:

Certainty is one of the most important factors sought by Boards of corporates all over the world.  This ranges from certainty on a macro level (political stability and financial market stability are good examples) to certainty in agreements being honoured.

Against the backdrop of Innospec and the Bribery Act how can the SFO guarantee that UK courts will not unravel a deal (whether a civil settlement or agreement or criminal negotiated basis of plea) between the SFO and a corporate?

Richard Alderman, Answer:

The SFO understands the importance of certainty for corporates and wants to help with this so far as it is possible within the legal system.  Any settlement reached though has to be subject to the eventual approval of the Courts whether in the UK or in other countries.  The experience of the SFO has been that the suggested resolution by the SFO has always been accepted by the Courts up to now, although the Courts have been critical about a number of aspects of the settlements.  The SFO will learn from what the Courts have said and will reflect this in future cases.

In response to the publication of the guidance Richard Alderman told us “I welcome the Government’s published guidance on the Bribery Act.  The Act is important for the UK and UK business.  While we shall be enforcing the Act vigorously so that ethical businesses do not lose out to others that use bribery and corruption to win contracts, we are still keen to listen to the specific issues that companies have and to work with them to resolve problems pragmatically and fairly.”, Opinion

The SFO is to be commended for its open door policy and its stated intent to help with certainty and to resolve problems pragmatically and fairly, we expect that as time passes the SFO position will harden. Now is a good time to consider, with legal advice, engagement with the SFO if you have questions.

Image © Crown Copyright 2011

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