The Bribery Act Explained

JMW recently held a seminar on The Bribery Act and what follows is a brief excerpt that provides information on the implications of the Act for business.

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Business Crime & Regulation

You can read more about the bribery act in "The UK Bribery Act: A Guide For Companies" here.


I’ve picked two speeches from Richard Alderman, because he gave a speech on the 7th of April, now the 7th of April’s important because it was just after the guidance was issued. But it was before the bribery act hit the streets.

And he was very concerned at that point to dispel some myths about hospitality, he wasn’t concerned with a bottle of wine, he wasn’t concerned with the, with the, I think Twickenham is the example he used in that speech.

But he was more concerned with companies, he didn’t use this phrase but this is really what he was getting at, companies acting in good faith and engaging with the SFO. What he didn’t want was companies acting out of proportion in terms of hospitality. He didn’t really go into say exactly what that was and I’m not again proposing to deal in detail with the guidelines themselves, they’ll be there for you to have a look at, but his speech then also focused on what he was expecting companies to do.

And it came down to this, he really wanted companies to use their best endeavours with the resources available to them at the time to develop what they could as quickly as possible, and he drew on Kenneth Clarks forward, all the dangerous things they do, Kenneth Clarks forward to the guidance, which said simply this, “that the rules are directed at making life difficult for the mavericks responsible for corruption, not unduly burdening the vast majority of decent law abiding firms” and that is really the hallmark of the SFO’s approach, and that’s what it’s going to be.

Now you contrast that, maybe not contrast but have a look at the approach they then took in January of this year, it’s only a fortnight ago, where he gave a talk to the law society and this was all about transparency internationals training offering that was a sense of perhaps of commerciality in it because he was at the end of the day selling something.

But he then focused on engaging with companies. That speech was given just after the Maybe Engineering civil decision, I’ll deal with a little more detail in a moment, but that decision essentially meant that they were able to recover a relatively small amount, £130,000 from an institution investor who put a sum of money into Maybe Engineering and had accepted a dividend and they successfully brought the case to civil action because they felt that the investor hadn’t looked hard enough and done their due diligence into that company when they should have known, if they had, that the activity within that company was corrupt and that was a very important decision that’s only very, very recent in the last few weeks. But of course Richard Alderman jumped on that and he said, “Companies must engage. Companies must engage with the Government. They must engage with NGO’s. They must act in good faith” and what he was really asking to do was self report because that was the lesson that was the lesson from Maybe. And he concluded that speech with some very harsh, well not harsh words I suppose but very pointed, very direct words at institutional investors. It’s not just about taking the dividend. Don’t invest in the companies and just take the dividend, you’ve got a greater responsibility then that.

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