18 October 2011

The Bribery Act (UK) which came into force in July this year, was designed to cope with white collar crime.  It addressed concerns that the criminal law did not meet obligations under the OECD Anti Bribery Convention and the UN Convention Against Corruption. The Act has been described as “the toughest anti-corruption legislation in the world”, having more stringent characteristics than the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (USA).

Ironically the first conviction is of a minnow, not one of the big fish the new law seeks to net. Last week a magistrate’s court clerk pleaded guilty to accepting 500 pounds to “get rid of a speeding charge for someone by keeping the details off a court database”. There has been no news published about the Serious Fraud Office investigation into corrupt practices at News of the World which would be likely to involve charges under the Bribery Act.

However in the United States, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is the tool being used by the Department of Justice to investigate News International’s responsibility for the bribes paid to British police officers. Such payments by a US company would contravene the OECD Convention against the bribery of foreign officials. Department of Justice actions under the FCPA have had a number of dramatic results. The $.8 billion paid by Siemens, is the largest fine for bribery in modern corporate history.