Bribery Act leaves SME’s vulnerable

The UK Bribery Act, which comes into force on July 1 2011, will face small and medium enterprises (SME’s) with another burden.  They may not have thought they were involved in bribery – giving or receiving – but they may find that they are.

What can you be done for?

You are given some tickets to a concert by a supplier – that could be bribery.

You are doing your first business outside the UK to boost experts and are told it is customary to make a payment to a local charity – that could be bribery.

You employ a salesperson to boost your sales and one of them attempts to give a bribe – then your company, if it has failed to train its employees and failed to assess the risks of bribery, could also be prosecuted.

Good aims: poor words

The aims of the Act are good ones as its proposers state them: stop bribery and stop open markets being distorted by bribery as well as stop the siphoning off of funds from less developed companies.  The Professional Publishers Association is using a legal team to brief on it.

The application of the Act will be difficult.  There are many words which we use day-to-day which are in the Act which will have to be defined by cases.

  • Improper: this is a key word in trying to make somebody do an “improper” action by bribing them.
  • Intended: if you “intended” to influence somebody to an “improper” action you can be liable: and
  • Failed: if your organisation “failed” to prevent an employee from bribing another then the organisation is liable.

There words are not in the legal dictionaries I use.  They, then, must all be judged case by case.

I hope the Act does what its proposers want: bribery is a curse of our world.  But with such woolly wording this Act will give much joy to lawyers as they earn from arguing their cases on both sides.  And put judges in the chair of defining what the words mean.

Have we not seen in the current privacy cases how dangerous it is to leave wording such as “privacy” and “freedom of speech” in the hands of judges?

Giggs on Saturday

I knew, I know late, it was Ryan Giggs on Saturday evening.  Sad to say I was so late but I was not looking for the answer.  When did you know?

And can you define “improper”, “intended” and “failed”?

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