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New guidance from the SFO on Facilitation Payments, Corporate Entertainment and Self Reporting

The SFO issued their new guidance today (see our earlier article). Reaction has suggested that it is clearer but that companies face bribery crackdowns in line with the guidance.
The theme which runs through the guidance is that cases will be prosecuted where there is a "realistic prospect of conviction" and it is "in the public interest" to do so. Reference is made to the various Codes in deciding on whether to prosecute.
Facilitation payments, it is stressed, were illegal before the Act and remain so. The reference in the earlier guidance to facilitiation payments being endemic in some countries and it taking time to eradicate are no longer present.
Corporate entertainment is referred to under the new guidance and is described as “bona fide hospitality or promotional or other legitimate business expenditure is recognised as an established and important part of doing business.”  It points out that "It is also the case, however, that bribes are sometimes disguised as legitimate business expenditure." Interestingly the heading is "business expenditure" rather than "corporate hospitality" or "corporate entertainment".

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SFO to amend guidance on Bribery Act

The SFO have taken down their guidance on corruption in relation to facilitation payments, self reporting and corporate hospitality under the Bribery Act 2010. Some legal pundits suggest this is likely to result in a more hard line approach to prosecutions anticipated after the departure of the previous director Richard Alderman. John Williams commented "Whilst I would expect the SFO under its new director David Green to adopt a more consistent approach to prosecutions within their difficult budget constraints I would not expect the guidance on the issues of facilitation payments and corporate hospitality to extend the reach of the criminal in relation to these two areas.The previous guidance was unclear and already sought to extend the ambit of the criminal law considerably beyond what had previously been the case in relation to facilitation payments and corporate hospitality. This resulted in numerous companies incurring considerable expense in terms of compliance and gave ammunition for criticism of of the authorities of excessive interference in business. I would expect the guidance to be clearer and to assist bona fide companies in having more certainty about their policies (and from having to spend excessive amounts on compliance issues). It will also be interesting to see how this new guidance is likely to impact on  investigations which are already underway and are being based on the previous guidance."

The Benefits of Early Representation

Bill Wilson over the past few months has clearly demonstrated the benefit of early representation within the investigation stage of a number of matters upon which he has been instructed on, which have resulted in no action being taken by the Police and/or Prosecution Authority. It really is important to seek expert advice as soon as an allegation becomes known, since at that stage it allows steps to be taken which can greatly influence whether charges are brought at all.
Needless to say his clients were delighted firstly in being able to extricate themselves from the threat and trauma of proceedings and ultimately being able to retain their good reputation and of course save on potential legal contested costs. In this digital age the consequences of a conviction or even a caution can be catastrophic, not just in terms of liberty but also for future careers, trade for your company and even travel.

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Law Commission Health Reform

John Williams of Bankside Law has assisted his client the United Chiropractic Association [UCA] in its response to the Law Commission’s consultation process for reform of health care professionals. He attended a Discussion Forum in October last year at the Law Commission’s offices on behalf of the UCA, and assisted with the drafting of the UCA’s written response to the Law Commission’s consultation document in June 2012.

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New Website Online

We are pleased to announce our new website is available.

This will give us the ability to produce news regularly, together with constantly changing and updated content.

Please check back regularly for news, and information that you may find of use.


© Bankside Law, 2012