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SFO director seeks wider enforcement for Bribery Act

Serious Fraud Office director David Green has proposed an amendment to the UK Bribery Act that would expand the controversial law’s coverage and lead to the possible blacklisting of companies.

Green’s amendment would widen the Bribery Act’s “failure to prevent bribery” language to include a failure to prevent all acts of financial crime.

Companies and banks could also be barred from participating in public contracts across the EU.

Green told the Telegraph the expanded Bribery Act would be used to prosecute only those companies that had benefited from the criminal conduct of their staff.

The Bribery Library Blog said in a post that Green’s ideas are gaining traction. The post was wrtten by Adam Greaves of the McGuire Woods London Anti-Corruption Group. Another member of the Group is partner Vivian Robinson QC, who served as the SFO’s first general counsel.

Green told reporters:

The sanction would be a financial penalty and the stigma. But it’s the stigma that is most important. Some say that certain banks had been rotten to the core. Why shouldn’t that be marked? Why should a big, powerful corporate be able to chuck a few people over the side and just sail blithely on, paying a fine as they go on….if a company has a conviction for bribery it can’t compete in Europe for public contracts….

McGuire Woods said the threat of EU-wide debarment from public contracts will be far more worrisome for companies than one-off fines.

The change to the Bribery Act, which came into force in July 2011, would have “significant ramifications for the banks embroiled in the SFO investigation into the alleged rigging of Libor,” the Telegraph said.

In December, the SFO’s high-profile prosecution of billionaire Victor Dahdaleh collapsed after two witnesses from a U.S. law firm refused to testify and another witness changed his evidence.

“The SFO’s poor success rate in corporate prosecutions compared to U.S. counterparts is a major source of frustration for a UK agency trying to rebuild its reputation after some high-profile blunders,” the Telegraph said.

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Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of the FCPA Blog and can be reached here.

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