Businesses have been warned not to “drop their guard” because the Bribery Act has been delayed to allow UK companies to get to grips with the new rules.
The government has pushed back implementation of the new bribery laws under intense lobbying and criticism from business groups, such as the Confederation for British Industry, that an unworkable act will harm British competitiveness.
“Businesses will welcome the delay in implementing the Bribery Act as it is, given their concerns about the legislation. It is such a significant piece of corporate criminal legislation that it would be preferable to get it right now to avoid disputes over its ambiguity in front of the criminal courts in a few years’ time,” said Richard Burger, senior associate in the regulatory group at City law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain.
The decision to push back the implementation until May at the earliest was not welcomed in all quarters and came in for a stinging rebuke from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
“It is very disappointing that despite public commitments, the UK will further delay this important act to tackle bribery and corruption,” said Mark Pieth, chairman of the OECD’s working group. “Establishing a level playing field for international business is as important now as ever and will help strengthen the global economic recovery.”
Despite the delay, Burger warned that UK plc should not drop its guard.
“There is existing anti-bribery law in place and although viewed by some as outdated, recent bribery prosecutions by the Serious Fraud Office demonstrate that the current law still can pack a punch.
“Training staff and stress-testing existing anti-bribery policies and procedures should not be put on hold, simply because the Bribery Act is delayed,” he said.