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  • Published:
    10 March
  • Area of Law:

The Bribery Act – first corporate conviction

Accompanying the introduction of the Bribery Act 2010 was the stark warning to commercial organisations of penalties for failures to prevent bribery.

Last month we saw the first conviction under section 7 of the Act when construction and professional services company Sweett Group was sentenced and ordered to pay £2.25m. This followed their conviction arising from a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into its activities in the United Arab Emirates.

The company had pleaded guilty in December 2015 to a charge of failing to prevent an act of bribery intended to secure and retain the contract with an insurance company. The investigation into Sweett Group uncovered that one of its subsidiary companies had made corrupt payments to secure the award of a contract for the building of a hotel in Abu Dhabi. The offence was described as a systems failure, with comments that the offending had patently been committed over a period of time.   

The Director of the SFO, David Green QC said that the conviction and punishment “send a strong message that UK companies must take full responsibility for the actions of their employees and in their commercial activities act in accordance with the law”.

What should you be doing?

1. Ensure that you have a robust and clear anti-bribery policy and that it is implemented. Encourage a culture where high ethical standards are expected and corruption is not tolerated.

2. Ensure all employees are aware and trained upon the implications of this and how it applies to them individually and to the business. We can provide training for your employees in this area. Also make clear to those with whom you do business that you operate a zero tolerance policy to bribery.

3. Analyse and document your risk in terms of the key bribery risks faced by your business.

4. Ensure your business’s current policies on gifts, entertainment, charity, donations and facilitation payments are both implemented and regularly reviewed to ensure that exposure to risk is minimal. Record any gifts or hospitality, and ensure anything excessive is not accepted.

5. Regularly review (ideally at least on an annual basis) how your business complies with its duties under your policy and the anti-bribery legislation.

6. Identify with whom you do business (agents, suppliers and other third parties) – carry out appropriate due diligence on them and ensure this is documented. Where concerns are identified do not be afraid to turn business away.

7. Where bribery is suspected by an employee or by a third party with whom you have a business relationship don’t ignore this. Ensure your policies are up to date and that employees are aware of how and to whom they can raise concerns.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need more information about the Bribery Act or any other aspect of employment law.

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