An Essay Bribery Act 2010

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“While it is entirely understandable that the government wishes Parliament to direct provisions to UK companies and show a strong hand to the international community, it is equally important that it does not suffocate activity in markets where those companies come up against international competitors.” Discuss the extent to which the Bribery Act 2010 has balanced the two objectives identified by Michaelson and Berkeley in this extract. As a member country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the UK ratified the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention[1] and in principle agreed to meet the standards set. Despite this, the UK was unsuccessful in fulfilling its obligations and this resulted in a ‘turning point’[2] whereby the Bribery Act 2010 was implemented.

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The Act’s predecessors[3] were crucial factors owing to the implementation as they were considered ‘inconsistent, anachronistic and inadequate’[4]. This Act codifies the law and quietens the criticism of the UK for ‘lagging behind international competitors’.[5] It is noteworthy that the phrase on the lips of so many commentators is ‘level playing field’[6] which ‘works both ways’[7]. Thus, this essay’s aim is to succinctly examine the extent to which the Act has brought the UK ‘into line with international norms on anti-corruption legislation’[8]. However, it is also argued that the Act may be disadvantageous for UK businesses[9] as stricter obligations are imposed compared to their foreign competitors[10]. It is intended to take the two latter objectives and analyse the degree to which the Act has balanced them. There have been arguments against the ‘delay’ in implementation of the Act and these provide strong bases for establishing a ‘strong hand to the international community’[11]. The OECD’s Working Group on Bribery opined that it was ‘very disappointed . . . [in] the further delay’; proceeding to affirm that ‘establishing a level playing field for international business . . . will help strengthen the global economic recovery’[12]. The OECD’s dismay at the delay was clear when they claimed that they would ‘threaten to blacklist British companies’ should they remain ‘under-regulated’[13]. The OECD urged the United Kingdom to implement the Act ‘as a matter of high priority’ whilst Transparency International claimed that the delay ‘raised serious doubts about the credibility of the government’s commitment to the Bribery Act’[14]. Thus, it is widely accepted that the Act was critical in bringing the UK into line with OECD member states on anti-bribery. The USA has ‘been at the forefront of prosecuting international bribery’[15] and thus far ‘has been [the] predominant force in setting compliance standards for international businesses’.[16] The FCPA[17] was regarded, until the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, as the only ‘explicit extraterritorial anti-bribery law’[18]. However, it can be seen that the UK Bribery Act has ‘raised the bar’[19]; and in doing so has shown ‘a strong hand to the international community’[20]. The government define the Act as a ‘modern and consolidated bribery law’[21] that superseded the ‘current law [that was] riddled with uncertainty and in need of rationalisation’[22].

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