SECRET (NO FOREIGNERS)
From: Matt Muttley, Managing Partner
To: The Partners
RE: BRIBERY AND HOW TO GET AWAY WITH IT
Gentlemen, I write on a matter of some importance to those of our clients who have interests in the aerospace and arms industry and a side interest in what I shall loosely define as ‘football related activities’.
1. You will, of course, be fully familiar with the provisions of the new Bribery Act and all corporate partners should now have downloaded a new ‘app’ for your Muttley Dastardly iPhone giving you a fool proof guide to these provisions should you need to give advice quickly to clients who are unable to resist the urge to bribe an overseas government or, a member of FIFA or indeed, if recent Wikileaks revelations about Prince Andrew are to be believed, you are acting in France and Kyrgistan.
2. I draw your attention to a most excellent briefing in OUT-Law ( so useful to have competitor firms provide briefing papers of value to us in these dark days of cuts and profit maximisation). I quote the salient passages…
“The Law Society has responded to a consultation on (the government guidelines) and has called for more detail.
The Law Society considered that the guidance is helpful. However, there were specific areas where more detail and clarification would be helpful,” said the Law Society’s response (4-page / 45KB PDF). “The Law Society recognises the importance of prosecutorial discretion in legislation such as this. However, this does mean that there will be a lack of certainty in the early days of implementation and this is a concern for many of our Members and their clients. Clear and swift guidance from the prosecuting authorities would, in our view, help to allay fears and assist firms to ensure compliance with the new Act.”
The Law Society said the approach taken by the Ministry of Justice’s guidance is too vague.
3. Having examined The Law Society response, a short and pithy paper, I note their concern….“The Law Society also said that the guidance should advise on how companies can deal with bribery that is ongoing, and how they can deal with bribery that occurs in the UK.
“[The guidance's practical examples] are overly complex; they only consider overseas bribery, which may cause firms to overlook the fact that bribery can occur in the UK,” said the Law Society response.”
4. The Ministry of Justice appears to be reluctant to explain how the legislation may work in any more detail for fear of restricting the discretion of the prosecuting authorities – in this case, the Serious Fraud Office – thus upholding a fine tradition of obfuscation in our laws to allow ‘wiggle room’ should any future prime minister or attorney-general wish to step in at the last moment and stop investigations on grounds of ‘national security’. Not that one could ever imagine such a thing happening in the United Kingdom.
I think we can safely assume that none of our clients would engage in activities coming within the Bribery Act, as currently understood and implemented by the prosecuting authorities and, I understand, there was much banging of tables and cheering down at the old “Dog and Very Rich Duck’ last night at a meeting of tax avoiders, hedgies, bankers and entrepreneurs and a general feeling that business may proceed as usual and that the new legislation will deter the faint hearted but not unduly restrict those of a more, shall we say, bold disposition who don’t approve of the SFO, [Expletive] journalists and sundry other traitors sticking their noses into business which is of no concern to them.
It may be wise to download The Law Society response for ‘best practice’ compliance purposes. Law Society’s response (4-page / 45KB PDF) You may even be able to claim some CPD points if you read it.
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