The Bribery Act – Corporate hospitality and gifts

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas…. trees, presents, turkey and for some a bottle of wine from a happy accountant or an invitation to the opera from an appreciative bank. These corporate benefits may however be a thing of the past.

Since last Christmas the UK has seen a new anti corruption law come into force, namely the Bribery Act (“the Act”). The Act makes it illegal to offer or receive bribes and to fail to prevent bribery.

What do we mean by Bribery?

The Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, said earlier in the year, “Very generally, [bribery] is defined as giving someone a financial or other advantage to encourage that person to perform their functions or activities improperly or to reward that person for having already done so.”

What is the penalty?

While this covers the obvious elements of bribery, such as corruption, the Act also covers disproportionate hospitality and corporate gifts which will now be illegal. Individuals can face up to 10 years in prison and an unlimited fine.

What is our advice?

While some organisations have taken a very strict approach to this (most notably the Royal Mail who have told their staff not to accept Christmas tips over £30), the Act does not provide specific limits or examples. Strictly speaking, a gift of any value could be considered as a bribe if the motive behind it was to encourage someone to act improperly. Our advice would therefore simply be to follow the words of the Justice Secretary and use your “common sense”.

Myers Lister Price solicitors are happy to talk to you about any concerns you may have in respect of corporate hospitality or your anti-corruption policy. Please feel free to contact our Corporate and Commercial solicitors on 0845 0738 445 or email and one of our legal team will contact you.