It's been 10 years since the Bribery Act was enacted. This prompted The Times to write a piece on the impact this piece of legislation has had since its introduction. Rahman Ravelli's Senior Partner Aziz Rahman was asked to contribute to the article.
“The Bribery Act was a necessary piece of legislation. It is also a world-class piece of legislation, even though it has not been used as extensively as the United States’ Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. But it has had its ups and downs and could, arguably, benefit from some fine tuning," commented Aziz.
“We are still seeing companies agreeing a course of action to avoid prosecution which then leaves individuals to fend for themselves – and then we have the contradictory situation when those individuals are either not prosecuted or not found guilty, meaning that no company or person has been convicted for the wrongdoing.
“We have seen deferred prosecution agreements in relation to major bribery allegations – five out of the UK’s seven DPA’s so far have been bribery related – and the discontinuance of high-profile bribery investigations such as Rolls-Royce and GSK. And the most recent DPA involving Airbus’s bribery allegations was a notable for the level of international co-operation between agencies.
“But so far the prosecutions under the Bribery Act have been scarce and there has been no sign of the big corporates being prosecuted under the Act. This may be due to a lack of resources for the Serious Fraud Office and other agencies or because the Act has actually prompted companies to place greater emphasis on compliance.
“It is perhaps telling that the first contested case for failure to prevent bribery under Section 7 of the Act that led to conviction at trial did not come until 2018 and involved a modestly-sized company, Skansen Interiors Ltd, which had ceased trading by that time.
“Yet although the Bribery Act has been with us a good length of time and it has not led to many prosecutions, it would be a huge mistake to underestimate it – and an even bigger mistake not to take steps to avoid falling foul of it. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence out there that suggests bribery is still commonplace, albeit more so in some countries and business sectors than in others. Logic dictates that there will be more prosecutions under the Bribery Act as the authorities uncover more activity worthy of action. Its first years have only hinted at what is likely in the future.
“Critics will argue that this indicates that the Act is ineffective. It is an obvious argument but one which does not look at the full picture. The Act could only be applied to conduct taking place from July 2011 onwards, so there was never going to be an immediate wave of cases coming to court. Add to this the fact that any Bribery Act prosecution requires investigation, evidence gathering and pre-trial negotiation and it was always likely that we would face a wait before prosecutions under the Act were commonplace.’’
Aziz's comments featured in The Times article and can be read here. (Subscription required).