UK SFO Concludes Historic DPA Resolving Bribery Act Charge

December 7, 2015

On 30 November 2015, the UK Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) settled bribery charges against ICBC Standard Bank PLC. The settlement was historic for two reasons:

  • It was the first time ever that the SFO had entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (a “DPA”), and
  • It was the first notable outcome for the SFO for an offence of failure of a commercial organisation to prevent bribery.

These developments should be of particular note to those in senior business roles, risk and legal management and those responsible for internal corporate compliance programmes within businesses that fall within the wide jurisdictional ambit of the Bribery Act 2010, as well as those who are or may be engaged in bribery-related investigations in the UK or abroad.

The decision provides important guidance and substance as to one of the key features of the Bribery Act 2010. After a great deal of anxious commentary about the “systems and controls” offence at the time the legislation was introduced, and a relatively long gestation period since then, this case provides the market with guidance on what to do, what not to do, and the sanctions if you get it wrong.

Board members, and those that advise them, will need to take careful note. They will need to benchmark closely and objectively their own systems, controls and procedures against Standard Bank’s experience.