Transparency International’s Latest Report on Bribery in a Nutshell

This article originally appeared on Professor Koehler’s FCPA Professor website (www.fcpaprofessor.com) and is reprinted with his permission.

uk bribery act transparency international

Transparency International – UK (TI-UK) recently published “Deterring and Punishing Corporate Bribery,” and it is worth reading.  A meaty 93 pages, the document is full of useful information, from U.K. charging issues to corporate criminal liability principles under U.K. law to a list of SFO and FSA bribery or related enforcement actions and much more.

As noted in the foreword, the “paper seeks to identify the problems faced by prosecutors and companies in trying to settle cases of overseas bribery against the background of the current legal system and practice, and to make some recommendations to improve transparency, recognising that bribery is a serious criminal offence and there is a strong public interest in seeing offenders prosecuted.”

Several of the recommendations in the report I agree with such as the following.

  • “[A]ll settlements should be subject to judicial scrutiny independent from the prosecutor’s office” (that clearly does not happen in the U.S. given frequent use of non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements)
  • “[V]ictim countries should receive restitution and prosecutors should work with development agencies … to manage this process”  (although figuring out just how to do this is the difficult issue)
  • “[P]rosecutors should properly label bribery offenses and not select alternative charges in order to avoid mandatory debarment, which is a logical and fair outcome in certain cases as it provides a very strong deterrent to corporate offending” (This frequently happens in the U.S., for instance, Siemens, Daimler, BAE – none of these companies were charged with FCPA anti-bribery violations because of potential debarment concerns.)

The recommendation from the TI-UK report that I disagree with (and I am grateful for the citations and mentions in the report) is the following.  “[The U.K.] government should consider the introduction of DPAs or some similar sentencing procedure after a thorough assessment of the alternatives.  DPAs have proved to be a useful procedure to settle FCPA cases in the USA but the process has also been criticized with little judicial oversight.”

transparency international corporate-plea-agreementsElsewhere, the report states, “The reason that this [high level of U.S. enforcement of the FCPA] is possible with relatively few resources is that in the US most FCPA cases are settled through either [DPAs or NPAs] both of which avoid the preparation of casework for a trial by jury.”

How is a resolution vehicle that avoids the preparation of casework for a trial by jury a good thing?  Requiring an enforcement agency to meet its burden of proof in an adversarial proceeding before independent observers who consider mitigating facts and weigh viable defenses is central to the rule of law and how law best advances.  Allowing enforcement agencies a third option (the first two options being prosecute vs. not prosecute) facilitates both the under-prosecution of egregious instances of corporate conduct as well as the over-prosecution of corporate conduct and contributes to a facade of enforcement.

Moreover, as I noted in this previous article, why does the U.K. need alternative resolution vehicles when the U.K. Bribery Act has an adequate procedures defense?  If a corporate has adequate procedures, but an isolated act of bribery nevertheless occurs within its organization, the corporate presumably would not face prosecution under the Bribery Act.  Seems like a reasonable result.  In other words, no need for the third option in such a case.

On the other hand, if a corporation does not have adequate procedures (i.e. has no committment to anti-bribery compliance) and an act of bribery occurs within its organization, it presumably would face prosecution under the Bribery Act.  Seems like a reasonable result.

Does a third option really need to be created for corporates who do not implement adequate procedures?  Also relevant to the analysis and further suggesting that alternative resolution vehicles are not needed in the U.K. is the notion that (Section 7 of the Bribery Act aside) corporate criminal liability in the U.K. requires evidence that a so-called controlling mind of the corporate was involved in the improper conduct.

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mike-koehlerAbout the Author

Mike Koehler is an assistant professor of business law at Butler University and is an expert FCPA columnist for Corporate Compliance Insights. He is a leading expert on FCPA and other anti-corruption laws and initiatives. Professor Koehler has testified before Congress on FCPA, and he is also frequently speaks about such topics before business and academic audiences.