SFO issues new Bribery Act guidance

SFO issues new Bribery Act guidance


Author: Rachel Keightley

David Green QC is certainly making his mark as new director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), by publishing new guidance on the Bribery Act.

It is an about-turn on the previous, more lenient approach favoured by previous director Richard Alderman.

Following his appointment in May 2012, Green has acknowledged that the SFO faces an uphill task to rebuild its damaged reputation following a period of serious criticism.

He has pledged to prioritise cases that are beyond the competency of other investigating bodies, and enable the organisation to tackle Britain's biggest fraud cases.

In line with this new approach, the SFO has this week issued guidance confirming its position in respect of civil settlements for bribery which had previously been favoured by Alderman.

The guidance confirms that a decision on whether to prosecute in respect of facilitation payments and business expenditure will be governed by whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction, and being satisfied that there is a 'realistic prospect of conviction' as set out in the Full Code Test in the Code for Crown Prosecutions and the Joint Prosecution Guidance of the Director of the SFO, and the Director of the Public Prosecutions on the Bribery Act 2010. Where relevant, the Joint Guidance on Corporate Prosecutions will also be applied.

In line with this approach, there will no longer be the so-called 'guarantee' previously indicated by Alderman, that self-reporting organisations will be treated under civil, rather than criminal, sanctions.

This new guidance sends out a clear message that bribery, of any amount, will not be tolerated by the SFO, and whilst it will listen to what a corporate body has to say about its past conduct, it will offer no guarantee that prosecution will not follow any such report.

It is therefore more important than ever that organisations are alive to bribery issues, and put in place a suitable compliance plan.

Shoosmiths has helped numerous organisations establish suitable and effective compliance plans. We have also rolled out our anti-bribery e-learning training course to more than 9,000 users.