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Cath Everett

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Companies could ‘report rivals’ to fraud office

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The head of the Serious Fraud Office will invite companies to report rivals that they suspect of corrupt practices later this week following a row over controversial coalition government efforts to water down the Bribery Act.

 
According to the Daily Telegraph, Richard Alderman, head of the SFO, which is to be given sweeping powers to prosecute corruption under the Act, will say that he wants to work with business to identify wrongdoing.
 
He considers bringing cases against unethical foreign companies that operate in the UK as a “very high priority” and will look for cases in which corruption has been used to put a “good ethical UK corporate” at a disadvantage.
 
“Clearly we shall need help. We need evidence and we need to be tipped off in the first instance,” Alderman will tell a meeting of the International Security Management Association in London.
 
Although he will acknowledge that it can be problematic for companies to report their rivals to the authorities, he will suggest that the SFO will lend a sympathetic ear and work via third parties and advisers to obtain such information.
 
Alderman will also indicate that the body plans to use the UK’s tough money-laundering legislation to crack down on white collar crime, even if such action does not result in a prosecution for corruption.
 
The Bribery Act is due to come into force in April and will give UK prosecutors the power to investigate corruption at a global level and prosecute it through the UK courts. But last week, the coalition government caused a row when it confirmed that it would look again at the legislation as part of its Growth Review, which is intended to try and cut business red tape.
 
The Act, which was passed in the dying days of the Labour government, has been criticised by some employers as being too stringent as they warned that it could unduly hamper UK companies from competing abroad.
 
PricewaterhouseCoopers has indicated that even corporate Christmas gifts such as gold fountain pens or cases of champagne could be caught under the new law, while security consultancy Control Risks has said that it created “the most pervasive operational risk” framework for UK firms and described it as the toughest piece of legislation anywhere in the world.
 
But Jeremy Carver, board member of anti-corruption organisation Transparency International UK, told the Financial Times that the Act was well constructed and thought-out and the idea that it needed reviewing was “ludicrous”.
 
“This is the most reviewed and considered piece of legislation we have had for a generation. It has been through six different consultations. If you start watering down a bill that has already had this much compromise, it starts becoming totally meaningless,” he said.
 

One Response

  1. Reporting Rivals

    As always with anything that touches legislation, and in particular new and untested legislation, the devil is always in the detail. It is always the "how" not the "what".

    If you need to know more about the Bribery Act 2010 and the potential impact of this on your organisation then visit http://www.thebriberycentre.co.uk and complete our risk assessment – Stuart Brown

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