Companies that conduct business in the United Kingdom should review their existing anticorruption programs in light of the U.K. Bribery Act.
Before the enactment of the U.K. Bribery Act of 2010 by the British Parliament, bribery was a crime according to common law and in other statutes, such as the U.K.’s Prevention of Corruption Acts of 1889–1916. However, existing law was fragmented, outdated, and failed to comply with international standards of conduct regarding bribery of foreign public officials in business transactions, such as the Anti-Bribery Convention issued by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
The U.K. Bribery Act was intended to provide a single, modern statute to tackle bribery in the United Kingdom and abroad, in both the public and private sectors. It also was meant to signal a greater focus by the U.K. government on aggressive anticorruption enforcement. The comparable statute in the United States is the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Businesses should note, however, that there are significant differences between the U.S. and U.K. laws and understand that FCPA compliance may not be sufficient to achieve compliance with the U.K. Bribery Act.
The Bribery Act broadly addresses bribery in both the public and private sectors and replaces existing common law and prior statutes. The act broadly defines bribery as the offering, promising, or giving of any advantage and requesting, agreeing to receive, or accepting of any advantage. This is in contrast to the FCPA, which criminalizes the giving of a bribe, not the accepting of one.
Individuals convicted of offenses under the FCPA may be fined up to $250,000 per offense and sentenced to up to five years in prison; companies may be hit with fines of up to $2 million. Under the Bribery Act, both prison terms and monetary fines are unlimited.