Activists Raise Concerns about Enforcement of UK Bribery Act

Font Size:

Initial conviction under new law may not stem criticisms of government enforcement policies.

Font Size:

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) made news recently when it secured the first conviction under United Kingdom’s new Bribery Act adopted in 2010. However, news of this conviction may not stem the concerns of anti-corruption activists that the real impact of the Bribery Act is being watered down by enforcement policies of the UK government.

Activists have specifically expressed concern about the government’s guidance about how the law will be implemented, claiming that under the guidance parent companies may not be liable for bribes accepted by subsidiaries and that non-UK companies carrying out business in the UK can escape liability.

Some have also highlighted comments made by Richard Alderman, director of the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), intimating that the Bribery Act’s criminalization of so-called “facilitation payments” – that is, payments made to facilitate a service to which the payer is already entitled – will not always lead to prosecutions.

In addition, cuts to the SFO’s budget could hamper effective enforcement, according to Transparency International. Earlier this year, the UK Government conceded that it was appropriating only £2 million for enforcement of the Act. The SFO is slated to see its budget cut by about 25% by 2014.

In a press release, a CPS official stated that the Bribery Act “has provided a significant weapon in the armoury of prosecutors” who will “continue to target those who act corruptly purely for personal gain and tailor the charge to reflect their wrong-doing.”