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What does the Bribery Act mean for non-U.K. companies?

The passage of the one-year anniversary of the U.K. Bribery Act brought with it a renewed commitment to enforcement by the Serious Fraud Office.

Under new guidance published last week, the SFO said it would prosecute under the Bribery Act based solely on the law rather than previous guidance issued after the new law was introduced in July 2011.

What effect will Bribery Act have on non-U.K. companies doing business in the U.K.? It depends if the company has some connection to the UK. A U.K. office, for example, could extend potential liability to its global operations.

Also worth noting is that U.K. companies doing business in other parts of the world, such as Asia, commonly use agents and distributors – more so than in Europe, for example. One result is we’re likely to see more tailored due diligence and contracts with third parties that are structured to comply with Bribery Act. Companies are also likely to reserve more power to audit their agents and other third parties. 

With the Bribery Act, how quickly will companies address their anti-bribery efforts – moving from their development, to legal reviews, and ultimately, to full risk assessments? As with the FCPA, full awareness may not come about until the public airing of penalties and prosecutions.

In a broader context, non-U.K. companies, even those with no U.K. connection, may find that they will be expected to provide more information about themselves to their partners that have a U.K. connection. More intrusive due diligence requirements and contract provisions will be intended to provide a level of comfort and potential legal defense to the U.K.-connected business partners. Time will tell if such requirements become the norm.


Rob Morris, pictured above, is a managing director at AlixPartners. He’s based in Hong Kong and is Head of the firm’s Corporate Investigations in Asia.

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