The Bribery Act 2010 came into force in the UK on 1 July 2011, among much hysterical speculation amongst companies and in the press that you could no longer pass out a free pen or a coaster to an employee of a company with whom you are are dealing with. This is, as is often the case pure nonsense.
The intention of the Bribery Act is to bring the UK in-line with international corruption laws.
Perhaps the most significant aspect, certainly to most UK companies, of the new law is to impose a duty on companies to establish procedures to prevent persons taking or offering bribes, and this is backed up by a new offence that can be committed by commercial organisations for failing to prevent bribery. The establishment and existence of such a prevention policy will be deemed at least admissible as a defence in the offence.
So what about those pens and coasters?
The Act provides definitions of taking and offering a bribe, fundamentally speaking an individual acting in an improper manner in the conduct of their business for financial gain or offering a similar inducement to the employee or representative of another organisation, improper meaning “a breach of an expectation that a person will act in good faith, impartially, or in accordance with a position of trust.”
Which is exactly what this writer thought a bribe was and was under the impression that this already illegal, if not, at least morally wrong.