Is the UK's anti-bribery regime about to be put back in the spotlight? A House of Lords Select Committee has published its long-awaited report on the UK Bribery Act 2010. The report praises the Bribery Act for introducing "clear and all embracing" offences which set a global benchmark in the fight against bribery and corruption, but the report also makes a number of important recommendations which signal an updated approach to Bribery Act enforcement. The key points are outlined in the text box and discussed in more detail over the page.
- The Serious Fraud Office and Crown Prosecution Service should implement measures to speed up bribery investigations, better communicate with those under investigation, and delegate the power to initiate prosecutions to officials.
- The existing Ministry of Justice guidance should be updated to help businesses (particularly SMEs) to implement "adequate procedures" to prevent bribery offences being committed by their employees and agents. In particular, the guidance should:
- clarify that "adequate" is not intended to mean anything more than whatever is reasonable in the circumstances;
- require businesses to carry out a bribery risk assessment as part of their adequate procedures, to enable them to tailor their anti-bribery policies rather than rely on a standard template; and
- provide clearer examples of what would constitute acceptable corporate hospitality.
- The Home Office should press ahead with proposals for a centralised whistle-blowing mechanism.
- The conclusion of a deferred prosecution agreement with a company should not preclude the prosecution of culpable individuals.
- The UK should not pursue proposals to legalise facilitation payments (which are permitted under the US anti-bribery regime).
- The report also rules out the introduction of automatic liability on employers for offences committed by employees, a move which would replicate the principle of vicarious liability which also exists in the US anti-bribery regime.
- The Committee hopes that the Government will come to a decision soon on whether to extend the "failure to prevent" offence to other economic crimes.