What we do and our expertise
The UK’s anti-bribery architecture has significantly developed in the last decade with the introduction of the Bribery Act 2010. There is increased scrutiny of individuals and corporate business conduct and heightened concern about the wider impact of corrupt practices. Where an individual or company faces an allegation of bribery a clear strategy from the outset is required. Equally, where a business has detected irregular business practice either in their supply chain or operations in the UK or anywhere abroad a proactive approach is beneficial. At Bright Line Law we draw on our meticulous preparation and extensive experience in bribery and corruption matters to grasp the extent of the issue, the application of the criminal law and scope for it to be tested.
In the UK, what can amount to a ‘bribe’ is widely configured and the approach to corporate liability is deliberately expansive. Bribery is defined as the act of offering financial or ‘other’ advantage to a person with the intention of bringing about or rewarding the improper performance of a relevant function, or offering an advantage knowing that acceptance would constitute an improper act in itself. In the reverse, bribery is also the act of requesting or agreeing to an advantage in the performance of or incitement to an improper act. ‘Financial or other advantage’ is not defined, implying the benefit is wider than monetary gain. ‘Improper performance’ is conduct which breaches the relevant expectation; this dictates the functions are performed in good faith, impartially or by a person in a position of trust. This covers all functions carried out publicly, by a business, company or in the course of employment. There are separate offences for the bribery of foreign public officials.
The 2010 Act also creates an offence for businesses for ‘failing to prevent bribery’. A business will be criminally liable if someone working on its behalf (an ‘associated person’) bribes someone else with a view to achieving an advantage for the business. This could arise in situations whereby an individual grants gifts or other ‘favours’ with a view to securing a contract or making disproportionate payments in a commercial context. This would be caught by the failure to prevent offence if the business did not have adequate anti-bribery procedures in place. The sum of these offences is a wide regime governing individual actions and corporate policies, with no requirement that the conduct occurred in the UK.
Where an allegation of bribery is well founded, there is scope for asset freezing in certain cases, self-reporting to the authorities, deferred proceedings against corporates and criminal prosecution. In the event of a conviction, post-conviction confiscation of the proceeds of crime and a range of enforcement mechanisms also arise. Our expertise centres on a deep understanding of criminal law and regular dealings with the full range of the investigative and prosecuting authorities. We are routinely entrusted by our clients to guide them through the process of an internal investigation of bribery and corruption, including advising on points of legal privilege where they arise and the best investigative approach. We take responsibility for liaising with investigating authorities from the Serious Fraud Office to the Crown Prosecution Service and carefully prepare our clients for the complexities of providing information where a decision to do so has been made and the defence of any criminal prosecution. Alongside this, we anticipate the wider implications, such as disclosures to a professional regulator or any required reports under the anti-money laundering regime.
Bright Line Law also has an established practice of advising on tailored anti-bribery policies and procedures for corporates and other organisations of all sizes. A company doing business in the UK is required to have adequate anti-bribery procedures. This will be central to any defence of the corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery. A company with no procedures will inevitably struggle to support the defence unless it is clear that their absence of procedures was reasonable in all the circumstances. We work closely with our clients to understand where their vulnerabilities to corruption lie and develop practical, proportionate and easy to understand policies for implementation in businesses of all sizes.
Working with Bright Line Law
If you or your business is facing a bribery investigation, you need to speak with a legal advisor who understands your circumstances and will be able to approach matters objectively. The penalty for committing bribery is severe and could have significant consequences for you and your business in the future, which is why you should entrust your defence to a recognised leader in the field of anti-bribery law.
Our team have built a reputation for excellence in bribery and corruption matters by combining technical legal knowledge with sound understanding of business practices and industry realities. We regularly deploy this knowledge when advising individual and corporate clients. The unique approach that we take, being one of the few barrister-led law firms in the UK, to assisting clients with allegations of corruption affords us a particular advantage in dealing with regulatory investigations and litigation on our clients’ behalf.