With the Financial Conduct Authority reportedly reviewing at least 22 asset management firms for signs of bribery and corruption in their business practices, the time has come for a long look at the Act which underpins its efforts. Although Section 6 of the UK’s Bribery Act 2010 outlaws the bribing of a foreign public official, it is the offence of normal bribery between private businesses – such as private banks and fund firms – that is the most far-reaching and hardest to defend against.
The legislation, according to The Economist on 11 July 2011, was “conceived by the previous Labour government in response to the scandal of BAE bribes in Saudi Arabia”. Section 6, which deals with bribing foreign officials was a direct response to it. Despite this, the smart money is on the Serious Fraud Office, the UK’s principal anti-corruption prosecutor, bringing a case under Sections 1 and 2, which contain the offences of bribing and being bribed regardless of whether a foreign official is involved. The SFO might also invoke Section 7, which prohibits a UK commercial organisation from allowing bribery to happen on its behalf and requires it to do its best to stop “associated persons” who act on its behalf (Section 8) from committing it. Why?