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Today’s the Day: Is Your Organization Ready for the New UK Bribery Act?

By Charlie Voelker, Esq. SkillSoft Legal Compliance Solution

For more than 30 years, US-based companies have operated under the bribery prohibitions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  Recent increased emphasis on protecting “fair competition” around the globe has resulted in the passage of new anti-corruption legislation that imposes even more stringent limitations on any company that does business in the UK.  The UK Bribery Act of 2010, which takes effect today, has earned the nickname “FCPA on steroids” for its prohibitions that are extremely broad and far-reaching.  For instance, while the FCPA focuses on preventing the bribery of foreign government officials, the UK Bribery Act extends coverage to corruption that occurs between private organizations and persons.  The UK Act also outlaws facilitating, or “grease,” payments, which are payments to encourage officials to perform routine functions they are otherwise obligated to carry out.  (Grease payments are permitted in certain circumstances under the FCPA.)  Another major point of concern is that the UK Act expressly calls for senior executives’ personal criminal liability for some violations—even when the violations are committed by other employees within the organization.  The Act also makes a separate violation out of a company’s failure to prevent bribery in the first place.

Is there any silver lining to be found in this new legislation?  Yes!  Fortunately for proactive companies, the Act provides one defense for organization liability:  “adequate procedures” to prevent employees and other individuals associated with the company from engaging in corrupt behaviors.  Guidance issued by the UK Ministry of Justice includes six fundamental principles to assist companies in establishing these procedures.  Among the principles is the requirement for communication and the encouragement of “training” and “awareness raising”:

“Communicating your policies and procedures to staff and to others who will perform services for you enhances awareness and helps to deter bribery by making clear the basis on which your organization does business.”

Penalties under the Act range from criminal convictions, substantial fines, and even the specter of being barred from bidding on future government contracts in the European Union.  It’s clear that companies who do any business in the UK can’t afford not to train their employees on the law and their own anti-corruption policies as part of their comprehensive anti-corruption programs.

In response to the UK Bribery Act, SkillSoft has partnered with Davenport Lyons, a leading commercial London-based law firm, to develop a new e-learning course focused on educating employees on the law. The new course is a complement to SkillSoft’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act course and will provide customers with adequate defense against the legal implications of the UK Bribery Act and help protect them from their employees’ potential unlawful behavior.

Has your organization taken any steps to educate its employees about the UK Bribery Act?

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