UK firms slam Bribery Act exemptions

Elizabeth Fournier
UK COMPANIES reacted angrily yesterday to reports that the Bribery Act could exclude overseas firms listed in London from liability for prosecution, reigniting criticism that the Act is anti-competitive for UK plc.

Asset manager F&C raised concerns that the move would damage the integrity of the London market, and go against the model of the long-running US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“Discriminating in favour of overseas-domiciled companies when enforcing anti-corruption law strikes us as misguided and counter-productive,” said director of corporate governance George Dallas.

Justice secretary Ken Clarke (pictured) announced in January that the Ministry of Justice would provide further guidance on the Act, following pressure from companies concerned about its impact on their business. So appearing to favour international firms’ would be a surprising move, and one that would require ratification in Parliament.

“This plays into the hands of the Act’s critics, and is not in line with the business community’s concerns,” said Daniel Barton at advisory firm Alvarez & Marsal.

Lawyers, meanwhile, questioned the significance of an exemption, with most firms’ UK presence likely to extend beyond a simple listing.

“The exemption assumes that a listing is the only link to London,” said Barry Vitou at London law firm Pinsent Masons. “But there are plenty of other links that could trigger the Act.”