Companies that voluntarily alert US authorities to bribery committed by their employees will be given greater leniency than ever before.
Under new US Justice Department guidelines, most companies will avoid prosecution altogether if they fully disclose foreign bribery, cooperate in the investigation and take steps to avoid future misconduct.
The Department believes this will prompt greater corporate cooperation with authorities and help senior figures in companies better understand the benefits of more openness.
These latest guidelines expand a pilot programme that started last year, which promised lighter penalties for companies that report foreign bribery. That programme allowed for the possibility of no prosecution. The latest guidelines go further; stating there will be no prosecution unless the misconduct is so severe that the Justice Department cannot drop the charges against the company.
Aziz Rahman, founder of Rahman Ravelli, said the guidelines are the latest indicator that companies can benefit from being able to manage the problem of bribery.
He added: “If companies are open with the authorities, cooperate with an investigation and take genuine steps to put right the problems, they will not now be prosecuted in the US.
“We have seen that this can be the case in the UK; with Rolls-Royce’s gaining of a deferred prosecution agreement instead of being prosecuted showing how cooperation and negotiation can go a long way towards obtaining the best possible outcome.
“The onus is on companies to have procedures in place to prevent and identify bribery. They must also take advice on how best to proceed if bribery is identified. The Rolls-Royce case showed clearly how the right legal approach to bribery allegations can pay dividends.
“This latest US initiative is another opportunity for companies to benefit from proper handling of any bribery problems.’’
Read our article: THE ROLLS-ROYCE DPA: LESSONS THAT CAN BE LEARNT