Bribery Act proves no barrier to most businesses

23 December 2011

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29 December 2011 | Paul Snell

Just 6 per cent of UK companies report the Bribery Act has affected their ability to do business.

According to a survey of 406 CFOs and senior finance professionals conducted by Ernst & Young, the legislation - which came into force on 1 July this year – has not forced a significant change to the way companies do business.

In advance of the Act’s implementation there were warnings UK companies would be disadvantaged doing business abroad by such strict rules, or would even consider pulling out of some foreign markets. The legislation requires companies to put adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery or risk prosecution.

“The good news for UK business, and growth, is that nearly six months on, the Act has not proved to be the costly barrier that some feared it could become,” said Jonathan Middup, head of the anti-bribery and corruption team at E&Y.

“The premise that UK businesses need to pay bribes to be competitive abroad is a false one. There is a cost of carrying out risk assessments, amending policies, and implementing training and due diligence procedures but for many well-run businesses they have been able to bolt on the extra requirements to good compliance structures that already exist. That more than nine out of 10 say their business hasn’t been affected reflects this.”

The results of a survey in June published by Thomson Reuters found with just under two weeks until the Act was implemented, a fifth of companies said they felt “totally unprepared” to deal with its demands.

Ernst & Young added it was important for businesses to keep anti-bribery policies and procedures up-to-date, with the Serious Fraud Office looking to take its first “corporate scalp” under the Act.

Munir Patel, a court clerk, was the first person to be prosecuted under the Act. In October he pleaded guilty to requesting and receiving a bribe and received a three-year prison sentence.

Before Christmas purchasers were warned to ensure guidelines around the acceptance of gifts were understood by staff and suppliers to ensure their organisation did not fall foul of the Act.

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