Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

The UK Bribery Act, three years on: can we relax yet?

By Raymond L Sweigart

The Bribery Act 2010 has now been in force for three years. Despite the announcements and commentary that it heralded a new and aggressive face toward corporate corruption, there have as yet been no corporate prosecutions brought under the act. Was it all sound and fury signifying nothing? Or should all involved remain cautious and focused on compliance?

The Bribery Act 2010 came into force on 1 July 2011. Under its provisions, commercial organisations operating in the UK are exposed to potential, strict criminal liability, punishable by an unlimited fine, for failing to prevent bribery (the corporate offence). The corporate offence is committed by a ‘relevant commercial organisation’ if a ‘person associated with [the organisation]’ bribes another with the intention of obtaining or retaining business or an advantage in the conduct of business for the organisation (section 7 of the act).

Enforcement of the act, including the strict liability corporate offence in section 7, has primarily been entrusted to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), while the police and Crown Prosecution Service also retain central roles. In addition, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), now split into the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), have been active on the regulatory side…

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