Serious Fraud Office to adopt tough stance on new Bribery Act

Director of the Serious Fraud Office, Richard Alderman, has announced his intentions to take a tough stance on the newly introduced Bribery Act, which came into force at the beginning of July.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mr Alderman expressed a much stricter approach, with the new law, and in particular its enforcement on large businesses and foreign companies.

The most controversial aspect of the new act is the inclusion of a ?strict liability? corporate offence, of failing to prevent bribery. According to section 7a of the act, an organisation can be guilty of the offence even if an ?associated person? bribes another for the benefit of that organisation.

Because this offence can apply to instances of bribery in other countries, including ones where cash payments are fairly commonplace to speed up governmental process and suchlike, many businesses have expressed their concerns at its implementation.

Foreign companies that have their shares listed on the London Stock Exchange, but have few connections with the UK, are particularly concerned. This is because they could be investigated for corporate fraud by the Serious Fraud Office due to actions they carry out elsewhere.

Other concerns have been raised about the type of businesses most likely to be susceptible to corporate fraud prosecution under the new act. Some opponents have suggested that small to medium sized companies will be most vulnerable due to having fewer resources to invest in compliance.

However, Mr Alderman has refuted those suggestions by explaining that the Serious Fraud Office will be taking a tough stance on larger businesses, while working with smaller businesses to educate rather than prosecute.