Britain’s exit from the European Union has prompted a senior lawyer to urge businesses to ensure their bribery policies and procedures are fit for purpose.
Emerging markets and more diverse cultures carry with them business risk including the potential for bribery, says James Henson, partner in dispute resolution at Langleys Solicitors.
“The result of the EU referendum will undoubtedly present real opportunities for some businesses, unlocking potential new markets and freeing organisations from the burden of some of the rules in the existing single market,” said James.
“However, new and emerging markets also carry with them business risk. Activity that might well be ‘local custom or practice’ in another country is not, unless permitted by written law in that country, a defence to an action in the UK for an offence under the Bribery Act 2010.”
The Bribery Act 2010 created a number of bribery offences, including the offence of ‘failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery’.
If a person, or corporate performing services for an organisation (for example, an agent or consultant) commits an act of bribery intending to obtain or retain business or an advantage in the conduct of business for the organisation, then the organisation is also guilty of an offence and liable to prosecution.
James said: “The offence is one of strict liability – no knowledge of the offending behaviour or fault on the part of the organisation is needed – and extra-territorial, an offence is committed in the UK irrespective of whether the act is carried out abroad and, or, by a foreign agent.
“With increasing globalisation and now the EU referendum result, it is important that as part of any strategic thinking business organisations take the time to re-appraise, and where necessary update, the adequacy of their anti-bribery and corruption procedures.”
Measures include ensuring that a senior individual within a business has responsibility and ownership for overseeing anti-bribery measures and their implementation and embedding a clear ethical business code of conduct and statement of values which includes an anti-bribery and corruption element.
James added: “Businesses need to implement and document clear, appropriate and proportionate procedures to address the risk of bribery. That way, if something or someone does go awry, they give themselves a better chance of avoiding prosecution.”