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Survey reveals firms ignorant of bribery legislation

The Bribery Act 2010 came into force on 1 July. However, according to a survey carried out by solicitors Russell Jones and Walker, less than a fifth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have trained staff in preparation for the new legislation which carries heavy penalties.

Russell Jones and Walker surveyed key decision makers and senior executives of SMEs with an annual turnover up to £100 million across the finance and banking, media, and property and construction sectors. The findings are alarming.  Of the businesses surveyed, 11% were not aware of the UK Bribery Act at all. A further 33% had heard of the Act but were ‘not aware of the details’ and only 16% of businesses have put in place anti-bribery training for relevant staff.

The survey found that 22% of businesses have no plans to implement policies or procedures to take account of the Act, although 55% of those polled either ‘suspect’ or are sure that they have lost out to a competitor due to their excessive corporate hospitality. Only 3% believe this has ‘never’ happened. When asked what they would do should they discover ‘inappropriately excessive’ client hospitality within their organisation, 51% of businesses would simply ‘have a quiet word’ with those involved.

While many businesses may not be prepared for the Bribery Act 2010, the findings of the survey reveal an expectation that the Act will usher in some form of change. Of all businesses surveyed, 60% believe that the Act will have an effect and 11% felt it would ‘completely change’ the way their business will be conducted.

When it comes to corporate hospitality, the survey results show there remains wide uncertainty across all sectors surveyed about the level, or form, of hospitality that could be considered an offence under the new Bribery Act.

The Act, which replaces all other anti-bribery legislation, establishes four key offences under the law. These are:

  • Bribing another person
  • Receiving a bribe
  • Bribing a foreign official 
  • The failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery

Unlimited fines can be levied against anyone (individuals and companies) found guilty of breaching the legislation and individuals could face up to a 10-year prison sentence - three more years than was allowed under the former anti-bribery regime. There is also the possibility - under separate EU legislation – of being permanently barred from tendering for EU public contracts.

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