British law on corporate bribery
Durham Law School, Durham University, Durham, UK
Purpose – This paper aims to assess the effectiveness of the Bribery Act 2010 in curbing corporate
Design/methodology/approach – The paper takes a doctrinal focus in assessing UK bribery law
using both primary and secondary sources.
Findings – This paper nds that the effectiveness of the Bribery Act 2010 in curbing bribery lies in its
approach of changing the basis for corporate criminal liability from focusing on the guilt of personnel
within the company to focusing on the quality of the system governing the activities of the company.
Companies have to address the risks of bribery or risk facing liability for failure to prevent bribery. With
its regulatory approach to corporate liability, coupled with its extraterritorial reach, the Bribery Act is
likely to change business cultures that facilitate bribery, thereby proving an effective law to corporate
Originality/value – This paper highlights the deciency of earlier laws in tackling corporate bribery,
examines the crime of bribery from a company law perspective and argues that the regulatory strategy
in the Bribery Act is likely to be an effective tool against bribery.
Keywords Corruption, Commercial fraud, Corporate bribery, Corporate crimes
Paper type Research paper
Bribery is the making of a payment or giving a reward to a person in ofce or a position
of power to induce them to act in a corrupt manner for the benet of the person making
the payment or giving the reward. Bribery as a facet of commercial fraud has come to the
forefront of the international legal scene during the past decade. Bribery attracts the
application of a vast range of criminal and civil liability rules. This paper is concerned
with the UK law, the Bribery Act 2010 (“BA”), in dealing with bribery. For the BA to
apply, the person bribed must be performing a relevant function or activity, to which
they are either in a position of trust, or expected to perform in good faith, or expected to
One problem in curbing bribery in the corporate world has always been on how to
hold the company as an entity liable for bribery. This is because compared to a natural
person who has a mind to carry out criminal acts, the company, being an articial entity,
has no mind of its own. To overcome this problem, the law developed a doctrine of
attribution – where acts of senior ofcers of the company are attributed to the company.
In Tesco Supermarket Ltd v. Nattrass ( AC 153 at 170), Lord Reid said that the
person acting for the company is an embodiment of the company, and his mind is
the mind of the company, such that if it is a guilty mind, then that guilt is the guilt of the
company. However, the rules on corporate attribution depend on involvement of senior
ofcers of the company, and are decient where only junior ofcers are involved in the
relevant criminal acts – the BA goes beyond attribution.
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Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.22 No. 1, 2015
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