The UK Bribery Act has serious implications for European companies operating within the UK. The Act replaces previous offences with a general bribery offence and a specific offence relating to the bribery of foreign public officials (both of which are applicable to individuals and UK-incorporated companies). It also introduces a specific corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery. Of particular note is that companies “carrying on all or part of business” in the UK can be found guilty of the offence of failing to prevent bribery in the absence of what is referred to in the Act as "adequate procedures". The offence is designed to make companies responsible for bribery committed on their behalf, a familiar concept found in the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
One key potential liability for companies is the ‘’failure to prevent'' bribery for, or on behalf of, the company by its employees, agents or subsidiaries. A defense is available if it can be shown by the company that ''adequate procedures'' designed to prevent bribery were in place. The burden of proof for the ''adequate procedures'' defense rests with the company and these procedures will therefore need to be evidenced. Companies found guilty of these bribery offences could face unlimited fines. In addition, they may be disbarred from tendering for UK government contracts.
The act is effective as per July 1, 2011.