The Financial Conduct Authority forges ahead of the SFO with bribery prosecutions

13 March 2014

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The newly formed Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) has stolen a march on the UK’s lead bribery prosecutor the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in its prosecution of bribery and corruption, EY’s latest Bribery Digest has found.

The digest, which tracks bribery prosecutions in the UK, found that the Serious Fraud Office has not completed a case since July 2012.  In contrast the FCA’s announcement of a £1.8million fine in December against an insurance and brokering firm has seen the agency forge ahead with a focus on cracking down on bribery, despite being in existence in its current form for less than a year and juggling competing priorities. Local police forces and Scotland’s Crown and Procurator Fiscal Service picked up the remaining three cases in this period.

The absence of cases from the UK’s lead prosecutor comes despite findings in a report last month that bribery and corruption costs the EU economy £99billion annually, while 64% in the UK believe corruption is common. The EU report also called for a bigger crackdown on UK firms bribing their way into contracts abroad.

Jonathan Middup, EY UK Head of Anti-Bribery and Corruption said: “Not only is there a wealth of evidence that bribery and corruption around the world is continuing, but organisations are increasingly attuned to uncovering and reporting their suspicions.  The pipeline of cases for the SFO is ever-growing.

“However, the major prosecution in the past 18 months has come not under the Bribery Act, but the entirely unheralded Principle 3 of the FCA’s Principles for Business. It states that firms must take reasonable care to control its affairs with adequate risk management – in effect leaving FCA regulated firms far more exposed than other companies subject only to the Bribery Act.

“In its first case, the FCA has made clear that any failures will be severely punished where a company has checks in place to manage risks, but does not use them effectively. This is a major wake up call to financial firms regulated by the FCA that tick box compliance will not be tolerated and that bribery and corruption is on their radar.”