The Bribery Act 2010 comes into force today (1 July 2011). The implementation of the Act, originally scheduled for April, was delayed to allow time for the guidance on it to be finalised.
Section 7 of the Act makes it an offence for a commercial organisation to fail to prevent bribery. A business can provide a defence by showing that it had in place adequate procedures to prevent bribery from taking place, however, and the guidance details the approach that should be taken when implementing such procedures. The overriding point is that these should be proportionate in view of the likelihood of bribery occurring, which will depend on the size of the business and the countries and markets in which it operates. Although the principles remain similar to those in the draft guidance, published in September 2010, the advice in the final version is more detailed.
Under Section 11 of the Act, the maximum penalty for individuals is 10 years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine, or both. The maximum penalty for commercial organisations is an unlimited fine.
Section 14 of the Act provides that where an offence is committed with the consent or connivance of a senior officer of an organisation, that person (as well as the body corporate or partnership) is guilty of the offence and liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
The guidance includes case studies to illustrate what approach businesses might take in certain situations. There is also a ‘quick start guide’ to the Act.