FIRMS that admit internal bribery failings to the UK’s anti-fraud regulator are now more likely to face criminal prosecutions, under tough new rules issued by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) yesterday.
In an update to its guidance on last year’s Bribery Act, the SFO said: “The revised policies make it clear that there will be no presumption in favour of civil settlements in any circumstances.”
Lawyers said the rules were a marked shift from the old focus on reaching settlements with companies, to a new culture of corporate crime fighting.
“The new guidance shows a tougher, blunter approach to corruption from the Serious Fraud Office; it’s likely that they’ll be much more aggressive on alleged corruption in future,” said Barry Vitou, lawyer at Pinsent Masons.
The SFO’s policy update covers facilitation payments, hospitality and corporate self-reporting.
But Richard Burger, partner at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, said the fraud agency still had to prove itself as a serious player, calling the new guidance “meaningless if the SFO doesn’t have the funding and expertise to mount difficult and time exhausting investigations”.