A report by the anti-bribery working group of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has harshly criticized Britain for its failure to address corporate corruption and stop bribes paid by companies dealing in foreign markets. It called for new legislation in the UK to deal with the problem “as a matter of high priority.”
The 75-page report criticized the UK for failing to implement the organization’s anti-bribery guidelines, which should have come into force nine years ago, the Times Online reports. “The continued failure of the UK to address deficiencies in its laws on bribery of foreign public officials and on corporate liability for foreign bribery has hindered investigations,” it states.
The UK has recently taken steps to more aggressively pursue corporate corruption, with tougher new legislation expected to be introduced in the next session of Parliament. On October 6, as previously discussed by Securities Docket here, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office used a “Civil Recovery Order,” a new tool that allows it to seize property obtained by unlawful conduct without going through a criminal investigation, to recover £2.25 million in unlawful proceeds from construction group Balfour Beatty. The Times Online reports that “lawyers expect that such deals will become increasingly common, with authorities encouraging companies to report abuses and pay a fine in return for avoiding criminal prosecution.”
However, UK enforcement of foreign bribery has been extremely lax compared to that in the U.S. Jeremy Cole, a partner at law firm Lovells who specialises in bribery and corruption cases, told the Times Online: “A tough regime of enforcement similar to that in the US is required. Stateside there have been 105 foreign bribery prosecutions in 11 years, compared with one in the UK. The UK is way off the pace.”