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AlixPartners: The U.K. Bribery Act: One Year Later

Enforcement and its Implications for Companies

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With the one-year anniversary of the U.K. Bribery Act upon us, companies may be breathing a sigh of relief. To date, not a single successful prosecution has been brought against a company by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which is responsible for enforcing the law. However, such relief may, in fact, be premature. Recently, the SFO has reaffirmed its commitment to pursuing bribery cases. As a result, now may not be the time for businesses to overlook the urgency of complying with the law.

Earlier statements by the SFO’s former director Richard Alderman echoed the sentiment that immediate enforcement may not have been realistic. “There will be a process of transition. Most of our work at the moment is on pre-Bribery Act cases,” he said. “Furthermore it will take time to bring cases into the public domain under the Bribery Act, particularly when the SFO’s stated aim is to look for the ’more difficult cases‘ rather than ’low hanging fruit.’ ”1

Unlike the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), a decades-old law that has been subject to heightened enforcement by U.S. regulators in recent years, the U.K. Bribery Act has not yet been successfully prosecuted. As a result, companies may be challenged to fully grasp how regulators intend to enforce the law. In this context, companies have had to rely upon regulatory policy statements and the related intent of the law to guide compliance efforts.

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