Compliance Alert, 29 May 2019
The implementation of the UK Anti-Bribery Act (ABC) 2010 on July 1, 2011 saw the long-awaited updating of the UK’s somewhat antiquated laws on bribery. For many years the UK’s anti-corruption common law and statutory offences were considered to be unsatisfactory and insufficiently robust. High-profile failures, such as the stalled investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of allegations of corruption at BAE Systems, did little to improve the perception that UK anti-corruption laws were inadequate and lagged far behind the recommendations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Anti-Bribery Convention. That convention was the first international agreement to outlaw foreign bribery and was ratified by the UK in 1998.
It is widely recognised that bribery and corruption have adverse economic and social consequences. Typically in areas such as Africa, Asia and Latin America, it is the poorest and most vulnerable who suffer the consequences of corruption. Mindful of this and the discouraging effect which lax anti-corruption laws can have on inward foreign investment, the UK government embraced the need to reform UK bribery law. The act reflects a drive by the UK government to put in place modern and comprehensive anti-bribery legislation, allowing more effective intervention by the UK courts to penalise those who commit bribery in the UK and abroad.