By Richard Pike and Natalia Mikolajczyk
At the beginning of this month the UK Ministry of Justice and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills released a survey on how many UK small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) know about the UK’s Bribery Act 2010. It turns out that two-thirds of the SMEs surveyed either had heard of or were aware of the corporate liability for failure to prevent bribery. Of those who were aware of the Act, almost three-quarters perceived that their company had sufficient knowledge and understanding to be able to implement adequate anti-bribery procedures. Of course, what this also means is that a full one-third of UK SMEs did not know about the obligations under the Act to prevent bribery and less than half thought their company was in a position to implement adequate procedures. This should be a cause of concern for businesses as it suggests there remains a real risk of violations slipping between the cracks.
The continuing lack of knowledge is surprising given recent press coverage of convictions under the 2010 Act. Two individuals were successfully prosecuted under the Act in December last year for their roles in a fraud valued at approximately £23 million. The offences occurred in connection with the selling and promotion of biofuel to UK investors between April 2011 and February 2012. Three men were convicted for conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to furnish false information, fraudulent trading and two were also convicted of offences under the 2010 Act. In total, the three men convicted faced sentences of 28 years in jail as well as compensation and confiscation orders.
Although there has not yet been a corporate conviction under the 2010 Act, there was an important corporate conviction under the previous legislation in, again, December last year. The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) convicted Smith & Ouzman Ltd, a printing firm based in Eastbourne, along with two other individuals for corruptly agreeing to make payments to public officials for business contracts in Kenya and Mauritania. It is perhaps not surprising, in the circumstances, that fully 80% of those surveyed who knew of the possibility for corporate convictions under the 2010 Act knew that there could be liability for bribing foreign officials.
The complete survey report can be found here: Insight into awareness and impact of the Bribery Act 2010 among small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)
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