Serious Fraud Office issues revised policies on aspects of the Bribery Act

The Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) has issued revised statements of policy, effective immediately, on facilitation payments, business hospitality and gifts, and the extent to which a company can protect itself from prosecution under the Bribery Act 2010 by self reporting.  The SFO highlights that its decision to prosecute will be made in accordance with the Joint Prosecution Guidance of the Director of the Serious Fraud Office and the Director of Public Prosecutions and other relevant principles.

The revised policies cover the following:

  •     Facilitation payments - in relation to facilitation payments (for example, where a government official is given money or goods to perform, or expedite the performance of, a routine or necessary action), the SFO confirms that such payments remain illegal under the Bribery Act (as they were before the Bribery Act came into force).  They are illegal regardless of their size or frequency.  Applying relevant guidance, companies are more likely to be prosecuted if they make large or repeated payments, whereas if a company has a clear policy setting out what an individual should do if faced with a request for a facilitation payment, and those procedures have been followed, this is likely to be in the company’s favour.  The SFO will prosecute if it is in the public interest to do so, if on the evidence there is a realistic prospect of conviction.  
  •     Business expenditure –the SFO recognises that there is a place for genuine hospitality expenditure by businesses.  However, where bribes are disguised as legitimate business expenditure, action may be taken.  Lavish hospitality or gifts are more likely to attract attention, particularly if not clearly connected with legitimate business activity.  If there is a realistic prospect of conviction on the evidence, the SFO will prosecute if it is in the public interest to do so.  
  •     Self reporting – self reporting by a company will not act as an automatic protection against prosecution.  Relevant guidance explains that the self reporting must be part of a “genuinely proactive approach adopted by the corporate management team when the offending is brought to their notice”.


The revised policies are effective immediately. They supersede previous statements of policy or practice.

Copies of the press releases announcing the revised policies can be accessed below:

http://www.sfo.gov.uk/bribery--corruption/the-bribery-act/facilitation-payments.aspx
http://www.sfo.gov.uk/bribery--corruption/the-bribery-act/business-expenditure.aspx
http://www.sfo.gov.uk/bribery--corruption/self-reporting-corruption.aspx

For more information please contact Beverley Flynn on +44 (0)1483 734264 or email beverley.flynn@stevens-bolton.com or Richard King on +44 (0)1483 734242 or email richard.king@stevens-bolton.com

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Beverley Flynn, Richard King

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