Businesses in Northern Ireland urged to heed warning as bribery clampdown gathers pace

06 April 2016

Practice Area: Corporate - M&A, Procurement

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Companies in Northern Ireland have been urged to view several recent cases as a warning that a clampdown on convictions under the Bribery Act is gathering pace, according to leading law firm Carson McDowell.

The last two quarters have seen a marked increase in activity under the Act. In September 2015 Brand-Rex, a Scottish developer of cabling solutions accepted that it had benefited from unlawful conduct by a third party. The company paid £212,800 under an agreed civil settlement.

This was followed by Standard Bank’s deferred prosecution agreement in November 2015 and Sweett Group PLC’s conviction in February 2016.

In the last week the growing list increased once again when Braid Logistics were ordered to pay £2m to the Crown Office in Scotland after self-reporting suspicious activities it had uncovered within its organisation.

The activities in question related to an account used by a customer’s employee to purchase holidays and withdraw cash, and a profit-sharing arrangement for rewarding a company director placing orders with Braid. An internal investigation was carried out and those involved were let go.

The company accepted that it had obtained business through conduct which fell foul of the Act. In response to the penalty, the Company has now implemented new stricter anti-bribery policies and agreed to carry out anti-bribery training for employees.

Dorit McCann, partner in the corporate team at Carson McDowell, said: “Since its implementation in July 2011 the Bribery Act 2010 has failed to make the impact expected, with few convictions of individuals and even fewer of commercial organisations, who were expected to feel the full force.

“However, recent months have seen a significant turning point and the Braid Logistics case earlier this week serves to highlight that businesses should not become too relaxed. The actions being taken under the Act are ever increasing and such activities cannot be swept under the carpet.”

Ms McCann added: “We would urge companies in Northern Ireland to be proactive in carrying out internal investigations to prevent an increase in cases locally. Implementing adequate policies and procedures is the best way to keep on top of what is going on in your organisation and offers the best chance of being treated leniently should allegations be made.”

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