The Bribery Act 2010 Guidance

A quick business advice guide on how to prepare your company for implementation of the updates to the bribery law

The Bribery Act 2010 Guidance

The Bribery Act 2010 modernises the law on bribery. It came into force on the 1st of July 2011. This business advice article offers a quick guide to the things you need to know to prepare your business for implementation.

The Government has also produced detailed guidance about the Act and the procedures that organisations can put in place to prevent bribery, as well as a set of illustrative case studies which you may find of further assistance (available here:

Key points

  • This Act deals only with bribery – not other forms of white collar crime
  • Your organisation may be liable for failing to prevent a person from bribing on your behalf but only if that person performs services for you in business. It is very unlikely therefore that you will be liable for the actions of someone who simply supplies goods to you
  • There is a full defence if you can show you had adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery. But you do not need to put bribery prevention procedures in place if there is no risk of bribery on your behalf
  • Hospitality is not prohibited by the Act
  • Facilitation payments are bribes under the Act just as they are under the old law

What is covered by the Bribery Act?

The Bribery Act is concerned with bribery. Very generally, this is defined as giving someone a financial or other advantage to encourage that person to perform their functions or activities improperly or to reward that person for having already done so. So this could cover seeking to influence a decision-maker by giving some kind of extra benefit to that decision maker rather than by what can legitimately be offered as part of a tender process.

The Act is not concerned with fraud, theft, books and record offences, Companies Act offences, money laundering offences or competition law.

When could my organisation be liable?

Your organisation could be liable if a very senior person in the organisation (for example, a managing director) commits a bribery offence. This person’s activities would then be attributed to the organisation.

Your organisation could also be liable where someone who performs services for it – like an employee or agent – pays a bribe specifically to get business, keep business, or gain a business advantage for your organisation. But you will have a full defence for this particular offence, and can avoid prosecution, if you can show you had adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.

It is important to note that no one can be prosecuted in England and Wales unless one of the two most senior prosecutors (the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Director of the Serious Fraud Office) is personally satisfied that a conviction is more likely than not, and that prosecution is in the public interest.

What do I need to do to rely on the defence?

You will not commit the offence of failing to prevent bribery if you can show that your organisation had ‘adequate procedures’ in place to prevent bribery. What counts as adequate will depend on the bribery risks you face and the nature, size and complexity of your business. So, a small or medium sized business which faces minimal bribery risks will require relatively minimal procedures to mitigate those risks. The following six principles will help you decide what, if anything, you need to do differently:

  1. Proportionality: The action you take should be proportionate to the risks you face and to the size of your business. So you might need to do more to prevent bribery if your organisation is large, or if you are operating in an overseas market where bribery is known to be commonplace, compared to what you might do if your organisation is small, or is operating in markets where bribery is not prevalent.
  2. Top Level Commitment: Those at the top of an organisation are in the best position to ensure their organisation conducts business without bribery. If you are running a business, you will want to show that you have been active in making sure that your staff (including any middle management) and the key people who do business with you and for you understand that you do not tolerate bribery. You may also want to get personally involved in taking the necessary proportionate action to address any bribery risks.
  3. Risk Assessment: Think about the bribery risks you might face. For example, you might want to do some research into the markets you operate in and the people you deal with, especially if you are entering into new business arrangements and new markets overseas.
  4. Due Diligence: Knowing exactly who you are dealing with can help to protect your organisation from taking on people who might be less than trustworthy. You may therefore want to ask a few questions and do a few checks before engaging others to represent you in business dealings.
  5. Communication: Communicating your policies and procedures to staff and to others who will perform services for you enhances awareness and helps to deter bribery by making clear the basis on which your organisation does business. You may, therefore, want to think about whether additional training or awareness raising would be appropriate or proportionate to the size and type of your business.
  6. Monitoring and Review: The risks you face and the effectiveness of your procedures may change over time. You may want, therefore, to keep an eye on the antibribery steps you have taken so that they keep pace with any changes in the bribery risks you face when, for example, you enter new markets
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