UK increases enforcement of foreign bribery, but concerns remain about transparency and resources


30/03/2012 - The United Kingdom has significantly boosted its foreign bribery enforcement efforts but needs to be more transparent when resolving cases. The opaque process and low level of information available about settlements may fail to instil public and judicial confidence, according to a new report.

The OECD Working Group on Bribery has just completed its report on the UK’s application of the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and related instruments.

The Working Group made further recommendations to improve the UK’s fight against foreign bribery, including:

  • Maintain the Serious Fraud Office ’s role and resources in criminal foreign bribery investigations and prosecutions;
  • Avoid confidentiality agreements that prevent disclosure of key information about settled cases ;
  • Promptly adopt a roadmap to proactively extend the Convention to Overseas Territories;
  • Clarify the significance of “reasonable and proportionate” hospitality and promotional expenditures;
  • Clarify the distinction between provision of advice and self reports;
  • Continue to provide evidence to other countries after settlements, where appropriate;
  • Ensure that companies effectively move towards “zero tolerance” of facilitation payments.

The report also highlighted positive aspects of the UK’s efforts to fight foreign bribery. The Serious Fraud Office has significantly increased foreign bribery enforcement. The UK government, including through its overseas missions, has made substantial efforts to raise awareness of the Bribery Act and the foreign bribery offence. Coupled with the publicity surrounding the enactment of the Bribery Act, this has led to heightened awareness of foreign bribery-related issues in the UK. The Working Group also notes the UK’s interesting approach of requiring companies to compensate the country of a bribed official, although further refinements are recommended.

The Working Group on Bribery – made up of the 34 OECD Member countries plus Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Russia and South Africa – adopted the UK’s report in its third phase of monitoring implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

The Report, available at, lists all the recommendations of the Working Group to the UK on pages [58-62], and includes an overview of recent enforcement actions and specific legal, policy and institutional features of the United Kingdom’s framework for fighting foreign bribery. As with other Working Group members, the UK will submit a written report to the Working Group within two years on steps it has taken to implement the new recommendations. This report will also be made publicly available.

>> For further information, journalists are invited to contact Mary Crane-Charef, OECD Anti-Corruption Division, e-mail; (33) 1 45 24 97 04.
>> For more information on OECD’s work to fight corruption, please visit


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