‘We have some 68 cases on our books at present, including matters under development in our intelligence section; these include eight Bribery Act projects. We have also charged our first offences under the Bribery Act 2010.’
said David Green speaking at the Cambridge Economic Symposium [on 2 September].
The SFO may have laid its first Bribery Act charges but they were not against a corporate.
Speaking at the symposium Mr Green went on to say:
‘What the SFO does helps to underpin the recovery by attacking criminal corporate behaviour and thereby encouraging good corporate culture. Similarly, foreign bribery undermines civil society, and ultimately harms the poorest most.’
Blah blah blah. Say some.
Over two years old and brought in with huge fanfare and publicity the lack of visible enforcement against a corporate has created a false sense of security among many.
This is borne out in anecdotal evidence and also statistics from a variety of surveys which indicate that some simply do not take compliance seriously – a consequence of a perception that there is no sanction for ignoring it.
While some argue the Bribery Act should be axed or diluted because, they say, it impossible to do business overseas without bribery privately some discount the SFO’s deterrent factor – pointing to a lack of any enforcement against corporates after the introduction of the Bribery Act over two years ago to much fanfare and publicity.
The update on the number of Bribery Act projects highlights that contrary to some private perceptions the risk of law enforcement action by the Serious Fraud Office (and other UK law enforcement) as time goes by increases as facts come to light and investigations, like fine wines, mature.
A common argument is that business cannot be done in some places without bribery. This is often used to underpin the argument that the law should be changed to allow bribery – it is not put that way – but that is the reality of the argument.
David Green’s answer to that this week at the Cambridge Symposium:
‘We can never accept the argument that a bribe is just the necessary price for doing business abroad.’
If the SFO come knocking don’t bother arguing that one then. David Green is not someone known for his sympathy for those who break the law.
In the not too distant future all this, in some cases familiar, enforcement rhetoric will translate into action.
Barry Vitou and Richard Kovalevsky QC blog at thebriberyact.com