On December 18, 2014 the UK Government issued its long awaited “UK Anti-Corruption Plan.” The plan sets out over sixty action points for the Government and its partners, organized around four key themes of “Pursue,” “Prevent,” “Protect” and “Prepare.”
The plan aims to set the strategic direction for all anti-corruption activity in the UK over the coming year, and to ensure greater collaboration and consistency across the public and private sectors.
At a high level, some of the key proposed actions include:
- An examination by the Ministry of Justice of the merits of introducing a new corporate offense of failure to prevent economic crime. Such an offense could result in a company being held criminally liable for a range of economic crimes committed on its behalf by its employees or associated parties, such as agents, even if board members or senior officers had no knowledge of the wrongdoing. It would likely afford companies the same type of “adequate procedures” defense that was introduced by the UK Bribery Act.
- Consideration by the Home Office and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (“BIS”) regarding additional incentives and support for whistleblowers in cases involving bribery and corruption.
- A review by the Cabinet Office in relation to the enforcement response to bribery and corruption more broadly. This may involve an assessment of the roles and responsibilities of various enforcement bodies, including the Serious Fraud Office.
- The creation by BIS of a publicly-accessible central registry containing information on the beneficial owners of UK companies. Individuals who ultimately own or control more than 25% of a UK company’s shares or voting rights, or who otherwise exercise control over that company or its management would consequently be identified.
- Formation by the National Crime Agency (“NCA”) of a national multi-agency intelligence team, which will focus on serious domestic and international bribery and corruption.
- Development by the Home Office and law enforcement of a model for a single reporting mechanism for allegations of corruption.
- Approval by the House of Commons regarding the proposed amendments to the Guide to the Rules for the conduct of its Members.
- Consideration by the Home Office to further strengthen law enforcement’s powers to investigate financial crime.
- Strengthening the dialogue between the public and private sectors by establishing a regular forum for civil society and business leaders to engage the Government on corruption and bribery issues.
The Government has set a twelve-month timescale to deliver most of the planned actions. However, this period includes a general election (and possible change of government) in May 2015, which might affect implementation.
The 60-page UK Anti-Corruption Plan is available here.
Robert Amaee is a partner in Covington & Burling’s London office and is recognized internationally as a leading white-collar crime lawyer who specializes in governmental and regulatory investigations. Before joining Covington, he served as head of anti-corruption and head of proceeds of crime at the UK Serious Fraud Office.