Bribery Newsflash: Serious Fraud Office revises bribery policies
10 October 2012
The UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO)
has revised its policies on facilitation payments, business
expenditure (hospitality) and corporate self-reporting, it was
announced yesterday. This follows the removal last week of the
previous guidance on these issues from the SFO's website.
In a press release, the SFO stated that its new Director, David
Green, wished 'to re-emphasise that all decisions to prosecute
unlawful activity will be governed by the Full Code Test in the
Code for Crown Prosecutors and the applicable joint SFO/CPS
All of the new policies state that 'in appropriate cases the
SFO may use its powers under proceeds of crime legislation as an
alternative (or in addition) to prosecution'.
Today's press coverage suggests that the new policies represent a
significant shift in stance by the SFO. We do not agree. The new
policies do not replace the
statutory guidance published
by the Ministry of Justice last year, which specifically refers to
facilitation payments and corporate hospitality.
The SFO's previous guidance on self-reporting focussed solely on
overseas corruption. By contrast, the new guidance on
self-reporting applies to all corruption. The previous guidance had
stated that the SFO wanted to 'settle self-referral
cases...civilly wherever possible'. The new guidance is less
explicit in offering the prospect of a civil as opposed to a
criminal outcome to corporates who self-report historic corruption
to the SFO.
However, the ability of the SFO to offer civil settlements has not
changed. The Joint Prosecution Guidance of the Director of the SFO
and the Director of Public Prosecutions on the Bribery Act 2010,
which the SFO will continue to follow, states that 'a genuinely
proactive approach involving self-reporting and remedial
action' will be a factor tending against prosecution.
We believe that, for companies faced with potential corruption
issues, having a dialogue with the SFO is still a viable option,
and is an option which offers the prospect of a company being
treated more leniently.
The revised statements of policy can be found on the SFO's
For commentary and updates on
enforcement see our
Enforcement Trends Table.
You may also be interested in our
SFO Investigations Tracker.
For further information please contact
Tony Lewis, Partner,
Alexandra Underwood, Partner, or
Charlotte Ovans, Associate at
Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP.