Anti-bribery and corruption policy

An anti-bribery and corruption policy (also known as an ABC policy) is an internal policy document used by employers to outline the company’s position on a variety of matters relating to corruption. Your company should adopt an anti-bribery and corruption policy if there is a risk that a member of your staff or a contractor that you engage might or could be exposed to bribery.

When should you use an Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy?

The policy serves two key purposes. Firstly, it helps prevent employees, contractors and workers from committing bribery or corruption offences by providing clear guidance and rules that must be followed. Secondly, it can help demonstrate that the company has “adequate procedures” in place to prevent bribery and corruption offences from occurring. This is important as it is a potential defence in the event that a member of staff commits an offence under the Bribery Act 2010 (the Bribery Act).

An anti-bribery and corruption policy will, amongst other things, explain what constitutes bribery, set out the company’s rules in relation to gifts and hospitality and explain how staff can report concerns about, or instances of, bribery. 

Why is an Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy important and why should you use an Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy?

The penalties under the Bribery Act are severe and can apply both to individuals and corporations. There is a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine for individuals. Corporations can be hit with an unlimited fine.  

A corporation will be liable where it fails to prevent bribery by an “associated person”. In the simplest cases this will occur where a senior employee (such as a managing director) commits a bribery offence. Due to the employee’s senior position within the company, their actions will also be attributed to the company. 

More common, however, is for companies to commit an office as a result of the actions of their service providers (i.e. employees, agents, contractors) who commit bribery offences without the company’s knowledge or consent. In these cases the company will be liable if it does not have adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery and one of its service providers pays a bribe to get business, keep business, or gain a business advantage for the company. This was deemed to be the case in 2017 when British Airways was fined approximately £671 million for, amongst other things, failing to prevent intermediaries from paying bribes in order to obtain lucrative engine and technology supply contracts in Indonesia, Nigeria, China and Malaysia. 

What are the common pitfalls when adopting an Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy?

An anti-bribery and corruption policy should be appropriate for the company adopting it. Companies operating in jurisdictions or sectors where there is a high risk of bribery occurring should have specifically drafted anti-bribery policies which set out how staff should act in commonly occurring situations. Companies operating in the UK and Europe, where there is a lower risk of bribery occurring, should adopt a shorter-form policy such as the policy available on PocketLaw.

It is important to note that a policy alone will not prevent your organisation from committing an offence if the policy is not communicated to staff or enforced within the company. Further, depending on the potential risk of bribery, it may be necessary to carry out anti-bribery and corruption training sessions with key staff members.

Companies should also consider adopting a separate whistleblowing policy that can be referred to in the anti-bribery and corruption policy. A whistleblowing policy sets out the processes for staff to report suspected wrongdoing within the company. Whistleblowing policies are commonly used in conjunction with anti-bribery and corruption policies as without adequate and clear processes for reporting bribery concerns, it will not be possible to effectively enforce adequate anti-bribery and corruption procedures. You can easily create a separate whistleblowing policy using PocketLaw. 

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