The OECD have published a detailed Report on the evaluations and recommendations of a Working Group on the UK’s implementation and enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The Report provides a valuable critique of the Bribery Act 2010 and on the UK’s recent record on enforcement of existing corruption laws.
Its principal findings and recommendations may be summarised as follows:
- The UK is encouraged to continue providing adequate resources and support to the Serious Fraud Office and other relevant law enforcement agencies so that they may continue improving their record of enforcement.
- The UK is commended for publishing the Guidance to Commercial Organisations regarding ‘Adequate Procedures’.
- Concern is expressed that to settle foreign bribery-related cases, UK authorities are increasingly reliant on Civil Recovery Orders ‘which require less judicial oversight and are less transparent than criminal plea agreements’.
- It is observed that the low level of information on settlements made publicly available by the UK authorities often prevents a proper assessment of whether the sanctions imposed are effective, proportionate and dissuasive.
- Concern is expressed that in some cases the SFO has entered into confidentiality agreements which prevent the disclosure of key information after cases are settled.
- There is a need for clarification regarding references in the Guidance to ‘reasonable and proportionate’ hospitality and promotional expenditures, including the reference to industry norms.
- UK policy should ensure that companies effectively move towards ‘zero tolerance’ of facilitation payments.
- The UK is commended for the substantial efforts which it has made to raise awareness of the Bribery Act and the foreign bribery offence.
- While noting the UK’s approach of requiring companies to compensate the country of a bribed official, it recommends further refinements.
These comments and suggestions reflect much of the useful debate which has centred around many of these issues over recent months. They provide food for thought both on the part of the Government and the relevant law enforcement agencies.