On January 13, 2011, UK government officials confirmed that the soon-to-be-implemented UK Bribery Act is set to be assessed as part of a government Growth Review designed to improve conditions for private sector growth, including easing regulatory burdens. Press reports indicate that the Growth Review, being undertaken jointly by HM Treasury and the Department for Business, will consider business concerns about the possible impact of the new law and whether there are steps that can be taken to lessen that impact.
The Bribery Act has been both hailed and pilloried within and outside the UK, with a number of companies expressing concern over the potential for inadvertent violations or penalization of what until now has been considered run-of-the-mill corporate hospitality.
Last week’s report regarding the Growth Review comes on the heels of comments from former UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, who expressed that corporate hospitality policies could be an easy early target for UK law enforcement once the Bribery Act comes into force in April 2011, but that the new corporate strict liability offense of failing to prevent bribery cannot be underestimated and “is the thing that companies need to be most worried about.”
In his comments, reported on January 5, 2011, Lord Goldsmith advised companies looking to address compliance with the new law to look to the experience of U.S. companies and law enforcement under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). “It is not just a case of having a written policy that says don’t bribe,” advised Goldsmith. “The American experience demonstrates you need to have a procedure for instructing people about that, for monitoring it; you have to have ways of dealing with problems when you come to them. You do have to have policies on things like entertainment and facilitation payments—what is acceptable and what isn’t.”
While there is no current indication whether or when the Growth Review will issue recommendations regarding the Bribery Act, the UK Ministry of Justice has confirmed that it will issue its final guidance to assist companies in addressing Bribery Act compliance by the end of this month.