Business and bribery

January 24, 2011, 10:54 PM GMT+0

A majority of the British public agrees with Government plans to ban British companies from paying bribes in foreign business dealings. The public is more lenient towards corporate hospitality though, with a majority thinking that this doesn’t count as bribery and should therefore be allowed.

  • 59% support plans to stop British companies from being able to pay bribes abroad
  • Compared to 19% who thought the practice should be sanctioned (22% don’t know)
  • And while just under a third (31%) feel that corporate hospitality is a subtle form of bribery
  • A higher proportion (54%) considers corporate hospitality to be a harmless way of currying favour with clients

Corruption conviction

In April, a new Bribery Act will come into effect, which, supporters argue, will place Britain at the forefront of global anti-corruption activity. The legislation covers the offering of bribes at home and abroad, as well as disallowing the bribing of officials, and also means that companies whose employees have been involved in bribes can be convicted for the crime.

But critics have claimed that the strictness of the new rules will unfairly burden Britain in comparison to some of its international competitors, and incur expensive investigations into third party practices, especially as the law states that the failure to prevent bribery is just as serious as directly engaging in it. There has also been some dispute over whether corporate hospitality will constitute bribery.

Notwithstanding, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was quick to emphasise that the Bribery Act will give them the power to investigate foreign companies’ dealings if corruption and bribes are suspected of disadvantaging British rivals. The World Bank estimates that bribery represents an extra 10% in the total cost of global business.

See the survey details and full results here