March 2011 | Lindsay Clark and Paul Snell
“Reasonable and proportionate” corporate hospitality
will not be classed as bribery under new legislation, the government has
Yesterday the Ministryof Justice
announced the Bribery Act
will come into force on 1 July this year, following the publication of guidance
clarifying what companies have to do to prevent corruption and avoid
“Bribery is one of those things we know when we see – it is a cynical
attempt to manipulate someone's judgement by financial or similar means,” said
secretary of state for justice Ken Clarke in a statement.
“The guidance makes clear that no one is going to try to stop businesses
getting to know their clients by taking them to events like Wimbledon,
Twickenham or the Grand Prix. Reasonable hospitality to meet, network and
improve relationships with customers is a normal part of business.”
publication of which has been delayed since February, said the procedures
businesses are advised to put in place would be proportionate to the size of
their organisation - so the burden on smaller organisations would be less.
However, anti-corruption campaign group
Transparency International UK
described the guidance (which is what will be used to interpret and enforce the
law) as “deplorable”. It said there is now a “significant risk” bribery will go
unpunished because the guidance offers a lot more freedom than it hoped.
“It is deplorable that
changes made to the draft guidance since late last year, and now enshrined in
the published version, depart from international good practice in several
areas,” said Chandrashekar Krishnan, TI UK executive director. “The Ministry of
Justice has exceeded its brief with this final guidance which undermines the
Act and will limit its effectiveness.”
was also published jointly yesterday by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
and the Serious FraudOffice (SFO).
The purpose of this guidance is to set out an approach to deciding whether to
bring a prosecution under the Act.
The Act creates four distinct criminal offences of
bribing another, being bribed, bribing a foreign official and, for commercial
organisations, failing to prevent bribery.
Keir Starmer, head of the CPS, said: “While the
Act takes a robust approach to commercial bribery, it also applies to
individuals who attempt to influence the application of rules, regulations and
SFO director Richard Alderman added the Act would
be enforced vigorously, but the organisation would work with businesses to
resolve any concerns they had.
And according to Sam Eastwood, head of business
ethics and anti-corruption group at law firm Norton Rose, stricter bribery laws
are now becoming more commonplace around the world.
"China has recently introduced measures to
combat the bribery of foreign public officials,” he said. “A further incentive
for all companies to address their bribery risks is that, for their own
protection and reputation, their business partners may wish to see evidence
that they have adequate procedures to prevent bribery."
The Bribery Act replaces a number of existing
common law offences, which were regarded
as outdated and unfit for purpose.
☛ A full update on the Bribery Act will appear in
the April edition of Supply Management