Merrill Brink News Reviews and Opinion on Nov 12, 2012: Bribery Act One Year On: Lessons Learned for Risk Mitigation

http://www.merrillbrink.com -- The business and regulatory world has paid close attention to the activities of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) since the UK Bribery Act (Bribery Act) was passed in July 2011.

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Merrill Brink

Bribery Act One Year On: Lessons Learned for Risk Mitigation

London, UK (PRWEB UK) 12 November 2012

The business and regulatory world has paid close attention to the activities of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) since the UK Bribery Act (Bribery Act) was passed in July 2011. At the time of its enactment, many experts expected the SFO to be even more aggressive than the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in identifying and prosecuting those guilty of acts of bribery. As noted by international law firm Hogan Lovells, “The Bribery Act contains sweeping provisions that expand beyond the FCPA, potentially reaching any corporation with business ties to the United Kingdom and acts of bribery anywhere in the world. The SFO has made clear that enforcement of the [Bribery] Act will be a top priority.”1

Nonetheless, in the year since the Bribery Act was passed, enforcement activities by the SFO have appeared to be relatively quiet. According to statistics obtained by international law firm Pinsent Masons, between 2008 and 2010 the SFO conducted between 43 – 63 raids a year. After 16 raids conducted in the first quarter of 2011 the SFO did not lead any raids in the next 12 months.2

This perception of a relatively low level of enforcement activity has caused speculation about whether the SFO will be as vigorous in enforcing the Bribery Act as was initially thought. Certainly, many in the business world do not appear to be too concerned. In a recent survey conducted by Deloitte, “fewer than one in ten of the 1200 compliance professionals polled expressed any concern about the possibility of a Bribery Act enforcement action being brought against their organisation. There appears to be little to fear from the SFO for the vast majority of those polled. In spite of the undoubted challenges that confront the SFO in the year ahead, it is important for companies and senior individuals to guard against complacency.”3

Not all agree with this analysis, however. Barry Vitou, head of Corporate Crime and Internal Investigations at Pinsent Masons points out that, “The SFO highlighted last year that it was already working on a number of Bribery Act investigations. So while there may not have been investigations carried out in full public view, they have already started behind the scenes.” What some view as a lack of activity may therefore be premature predictions. Robert Amaee, former Head of Anti-Corruption and Head of Proceeds of Crime at the UK Serious Fraud Office and currently of counsel at Covington & Burling, noted, “Some commentators had set unrealistic expectations for the speed at which enforcement actions would appear, predicting a swift procession of dawn raids and arrests.”4

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References:

1 Global Bribery and Corruption Review 2011: A Review of the Latest Developments in the Area of Anti-Bribery and Corruption Regulation and Enforcement Around the World,” Hogan Lovells, 2012. P. 1.
2 Barry Vitou and Richard Kovalevsky QC, “Collapse in Serious Fraud Office Raids Highlights Need for Action,” http://thebriberyact.com May 27, 2012.
3 Robert Amaee, “UK Bribery Act–Year One,” FCPA Professor, July 3, 2012.
4 Robert Amaee, “UK Bribery Act–Year One,” FCPA Professor, July 3, 2012.

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