What to do when you suspect corruption: disclosure obligations and enforcement processes in the UK, the US, Australia and China | Practical Law

What to do when you suspect corruption: disclosure obligations and enforcement processes in the UK, the US, Australia and China | Practical Law

This article examines:

What to do when you suspect corruption: disclosure obligations and enforcement processes in the UK, the US, Australia and China

by Amanda Turnill, Alexandra Chubb, Simon Airey, Debra Baynham, Carolyn McNiven and Adjoa Linzy*, DLA Piper
Law stated as at 01 Aug 2012ExpandAustralia, China, United Kingdom...USA (National/Federal)
This article examines:
The key pieces of anti-bribery and anti-corruption legislation currently in force in the UK, US, Australia, and China, with a particular focus on bribery of domestic and foreign public officials.
The regulators responsible for enforcing this legislation in each jurisdiction.
The advantages and disadvantages of making a voluntary disclosure to law enforcement authorities in the event that a company discovers potentially corrupt conduct within its ranks.
Bribery and corruption are an unfortunate part of business transactions the world over. Globally, it has been estimated that approximately US$1 trillion is paid in bribes on an annual basis in developed and developing countries. (As at 1 August 2012, US$1 was about EUR0.8.)
Bribery is often thought of as a victimless crime, but that is far from accurate. Bribery and corruption discourage investment, distort markets, divert resources from where they are most needed, and can facilitate organised crime and terrorism. They run counter to the rule of law.
The international community has never been so hostile to bribery and corruption. International bodies such as Transparency International and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are encouraging nations to take a tougher stance on bribery by strengthening legislation and taking greater enforcement action against those engaging in criminal conduct. Enforcement action by authorities in the UK and the US is at an all time high. In addition, the UK recently introduced what has been hailed by many as the "gold standard" in anti-bribery legislation, in the form of the UK Bribery Act 2010 (Bribery Act), which has a broad scope and potentially extraordinarily wide extra-territorial reach.
What does this mean for businesses operating on local, national and global scales? Now more than ever, it is critical for companies to understand their anti-bribery and anti-corruption obligations under local and foreign law.
A discussion of all pieces of legislation relevant in this context is beyond the scope of this article (for example, anti-money laundering legislation, specific pieces of state legislation in the US and Australia, and so on). However, obligations and duties under each jurisdiction's key piece of anti-bribery legislation are discussed.


UK Bribery Act 2010

On 1 July 2011, the UK's new anti-bribery legislation, the Bribery Act, came into force. The Bribery Act substantially extends the UK's anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws, and is being hailed by the international community as the "gold standard" in anti-bribery and anti-corruption legislation.
The Bribery Act creates five principal offences, the first three of which expand the pre-existing law (sections 1, 2 and 6). It also introduces two new offences directed at corporate behaviour (sections 7 and 14).
Bribery of public officials is dealt with in two ways:
  • Under section 1, it is an offence to bribe any person (which would include all UK domestic public officials) by directly or indirectly offering, promising or giving a financial or other advantage with the intention of inducing or rewarding improper performance of a relevant function or activity.
  • Under section 6, it is an offence to bribe a foreign public (government) official, by directly or indirectly offering, promising or giving a financial or other advantage, with the intention of influencing the foreign public official in their official capacity in order to obtain or retain business, or an advantage in the course of business.
Under section 6, merely seeking to influence a foreign public official in the way he acts in his official capacity is sufficient to create the offence. There does not have to be any corrupt intent or an intention to induce or reward the foreign public official for improper performance.
In contrast to US and Australian law, facilitation payments are prohibited. However, an offence under section 6 is not committed if it can be shown that the foreign official in question is permitted or required to be influenced in his official capacity under the written law of the relevant jurisdiction.
For acts which take place overseas, UK prosecutors can assert jurisdiction if the person who pays the alleged bribe has a "close connection" with the UK, such as being a British citizen or a company incorporated in the UK.
The offence that is likely to have the most significant impact on businesses is the new corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery (section 7). This is a strict liability offence, which makes commercial organisations liable when a person associated with the organisation (such as an employee, agent or subsidiary) bribes another person (whether in the UK or overseas) with the intention of obtaining business, or an advantage in the conduct of business, for that organisation. This offence applies in relation to any acts of bribery, including the bribery of domestic or foreign public officials.
Local customs and business practices are irrelevant to whether a section 7 offence is committed. In the same way, the fact that the company itself had no knowledge of or involvement in the bribe is also irrelevant. A company only has a defence if it can show that it had "adequate procedures" in place that were specifically designed to prevent bribery. No other defence is available.
The corporate offence created by section 7 has a very wide jurisdictional reach and can be used against a non-UK incorporated company in respect of conduct occurring outside the UK as long as the company "carries on a business or part of a business" in the UK. The required extent of the business presence in the UK is as yet untested, but it could be as minimal as a listing on the London Stock Exchange.
The definition of "associated person" is very broad, and can include any individual or organisation which "performs services for or on behalf of" the company. This could include employees, subsidiary companies, agents, suppliers, consultants or contractors.
The penalties under the Bribery Act can be severe. Individuals found guilty of a contravention face up to ten years imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both, while companies face unlimited fines. In addition, asset recovery proceedings can be brought against individuals and corporations to confiscate the proceeds of the criminal conduct.

US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act 1977

The relevant US legislation in this context is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act 1977 (FCPA). The FCPA anti-bribery provisions apply to:
  • US citizens.
  • US companies.
  • Issuers of securities in the US (including non-US companies).
  • Anyone acting on behalf of the above.
  • Any person on US soil.
Such persons are prohibited from making corrupt offers or payments of anything of value to any foreign official, foreign political party or candidate for political office where this is both:
  • For the purpose of influencing the official to violate their duty, or to secure any improper advantage.
  • In order to obtain or retain business.
This prohibition has three essential components:
  • Corrupt payments. The scope of what constitutes "anything of value" is broad and has been interpreted by US federal enforcement authorities to include gifts, payments of travel expenses, offers of employment, shares, loans, and other items and considerations. To trigger liability, the person making the payments must do so with a corrupt intent, that is, the payment must be intended to induce a foreign official to misuse his official position in order to obtain or retain business.
  • Foreign officials. The FCPA prohibits corrupt payments to foreign officials, as well as to foreign political parties or candidates for political office. The term "foreign officials" has been interpreted broadly to include:
    • foreign governments;
    • state owned enterprises (SOEs);
    • departments and agencies of a foreign government;
    • public international organisations;
    • officers or employees of the above;
    • any person acting in an official capacity.
The FCPA applies to all public officials regardless of their rank.
  • Obtaining or retaining business. A payment or promise to pay is only prohibited under the FCPA where it is intended to assist in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person or company. US federal law enforcement authorities have interpreted the phrase "obtaining or retaining business" broadly to include "more than a mere award or renewal of a contract". US case law illustrates that "obtaining or retaining business" can include a wide variety of activities, including those designed to lower the cost of doing business, and could cover almost any kind of advantage, including an indirect monetary advantage or reputational advantage.
The FCPA's accounting provisions. Unlike the other legislation discussed in this article, the FCPA also contains specific accounting provisions which apply to "issuers". An "issuer" is a corporation which has issued securities that have been registered in the US, or a corporation required to file periodic reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The FCPA requires issuers to make and keep accurate books and records and to maintain and devise a system of internal accounting controls. Every issuer must make and keep books, records and accounts, which, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the issuer. "Reasonable detail" is defined as a detail or degree of assurance as would satisfy prudent officials in the conduct of their own affairs. Every issuer is also required to devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls. Failure to document payments made to foreign officials and/or payments made in such a way as to conceal the true nature of the payments can trigger liability under the accounting provisions.
Penalties. Different penalties may be imposed depending on the provisions of the FCPA that have been violated (the anti-bribery provisions or the accounting provisions) and whether criminal or civil proceedings are commenced.
In criminal proceedings for violations of the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions, individuals face up to five years' imprisonment and fines of up to US$250,000 (or up to twice the benefit sought or received, whichever is greater). Corporations may be fined up to US$2 million (or up to twice the benefit sought or received, whichever is greater). In civil proceedings, individuals and corporations face fines of up to US$10,000 and the court may also impose an additional fine equal to the gross amount of the cash advantage or a specified lesser amount (up to US$100,000 for individuals and up to US$500,000 for corporations).
In criminal proceedings for violations of the FCPA's accounting provisions, individuals can be imprisoned for up to 20 years and may face fines of up to US$5 million, while corporations face fines of up to US$25 million. In civil proceedings, individuals may be fined up to US$150,000 and corporations may be fined up to US$500,000.

Australian Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)

Australia's federal Criminal Code exists as a Schedule to the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
Division 70 of the Criminal Code prohibits bribery of foreign public officials by persons within Australia, on board an Australian aircraft or ship, or by Australian citizens, residents or companies wherever in the world they are (or are operating).
Section 70.2 prohibits providing, offering or promising a benefit, or causing a benefit to be provided or a promise or offer of a benefit to be made, to another person where the benefit is not legitimately due to them and where this is both:
  • With the intention of influencing a foreign public official in the exercise of their duties.
  • In order to obtain or retain business or a business advantage.
"Benefit" is defined in Division 70 to include any advantage, and is not limited to property.
"Foreign public officials" are defined broadly and include, for example:
  • Employees, officials or contractors of a foreign government body.
  • Individuals who are otherwise in the service of a foreign government body (including service as a member of a military force or police force).
  • Members of the executive, judiciary or magistracy of a foreign country.
  • Members or officers of the legislature of a foreign country.
  • Employees or contractors of public international organisations.
Division 141 of the Criminal Code prohibits bribery of Commonwealth public officials by any person, whether or not the criminal conduct occurs inside or outside Australia. Section 141.1(1) is similar (though not identical) to section 70.2. It prohibits:
  • A person from providing, offering or promising a benefit to another person, or causing a benefit to be provided, or a promise or offer of a benefit to be made, to another person.
  • With the intention of influencing a Commonwealth public official in the exercise of the official's duties.
Unlike section 70.2, there is no requirement to demonstrate that the benefit is not legitimately due to the recipient. Nor is there a requirement to demonstrate that there was an intention to obtain or retain business or a business advantage.
In contrast to Division 70, Division 141 penalises not only the provision of a bribe but also the receipt of a bribe by a Commonwealth public official. Therefore, any Commonwealth public official who dishonestly asks for, receives or obtains, or agrees to receive or obtain, a benefit for himself or another person, with the intention that either the exercise of his official duties will be influenced, or of inducing, fostering or sustaining a belief that the exercise of his duties will be influenced, is guilty of an offence.
"Benefit" is defined in Division 141 in the same way as in Division 70.
"Commonwealth public official" is defined broadly to include, for example:
  • The Governor-General.
  • A minister.
  • A parliamentary secretary.
  • A member of a House of Parliament.
  • A Commonwealth judicial officer.
  • An Australian public servant.
  • A member of the defence force or the Australian Federal Police.
  • Contracted service providers for the Commonwealth.
The penalties under the Criminal Code were toughened significantly in February 2010. Individuals found guilty of an offence under Division 70 or Division 141 now face up to ten years' imprisonment or fines of up to A$1.1 million (or both). (As at 1 August 2012, US$1 was about A$0.9.) Corporations may now be fined up to the greatest of the following:
  • A$11 million.
  • Three times the value of the benefit that has been obtained directly or indirectly and that is reasonably attributable to the offending conduct.
  • Where the court cannot determine the value of the benefit, 10% of the annual turnover of the company during the 12 months concluding at the end of the month in which the offending conduct occurred.

China's Criminal Law

In China, it has been an offence since May 2011 to provide bribes to foreign government officials and officials of public international organisations in order to obtain an improper commercial advantage. Specifically, Article 164 of China's Criminal Law prohibits persons from making payments in the form of property to a foreign public official or an official of an international public organisation in order to obtain an improper commercial benefit.
The penalties under Chinese law for bribing foreign public officials are the same as for engaging in criminal commercial bribery. For large bribes, an individual may be imprisoned for up to three years. For very large bribes, a prison sentence of between three and ten years may be imposed, as well as criminal fines. Corporations may also be subject to criminal fines, and key management personnel, as well as the individuals directly involved in the criminal conduct, may also be subject to individual sanction.
In relation to bribery of domestic officials in China, Articles 389 to 391 of the Criminal Law prohibit a person from making an offer of property to a person classified as state personnel or to a worker in a public entity in return for an improper benefit.
"State personnel" includes, for example:
  • Officials who perform public services in state offices (such as governmental authorities).
  • People who perform public services in SOEs, public institutions (such as hospitals), or civil organisations (such as an industry association affiliated with a government agency).
  • People who perform public services under the law (such as political representatives).
"Public institutions" include state-owned hospitals, medical clinics, research institutes, associations under the Ministry of Health (for example, the Chinese Preventive Medicine Association and the Chinese Medical Association), public schools, and so on.
Article 392 of the Criminal Law also prohibits brokering and arranging payments of bribes to domestic officials.
Article 385 of the Criminal Law prohibits domestic officials from accepting bribes. Specifically, a state official is prohibited from using his or her position to solicit or unlawfully accept a payment (including property, kickbacks or procedural fees), in exchange for giving improper benefits to another person. This offence also applies to bribes which are solicited or accepted through intermediaries.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, the penalties for bribing domestic public officials can be even more severe than those for bribing foreign public officials. Individual offenders (both those providing and those receiving bribes) can be fined, or subject to short-term criminal detention or imprisonment, or to long-term (and even life) imprisonment, and to confiscation of property. Domestic officials who accept bribes may even be subject to the death penalty where the amount of the bribe is large enough and the surrounding circumstances are deemed sufficiently serious. Corporations found guilty of bribing domestic officials can be fined, while the key management personnel and the individuals who directly engaged in the illegal conduct can be subject to criminal detention or imprisonment.

The regulators


Each part of the UK (England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland) has its own local investigation and prosecution agencies that are able to deal with cases of bribery and corruption. These include the:
  • Local police forces.
  • Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales.
  • Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland.
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in Scotland.
However, the lead agency for investigating and dealing with serious bribery and corruption cases, especially those involving corporate offences, is the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The SFO has a dual role in that it investigates (with or without police assistance) and prosecutes both serious fraud and bribery (domestic and overseas). It has a wide range of statutory investigation powers, which include search and seizure, compulsory document production notices, interviews under caution (with a right to silence), and compulsion interviews (with no right to silence). The SFO also plays a lead role in intelligence gathering and providing mutual legal assistance to overseas enforcement authorities.


In the US, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and SEC are both empowered to enforce the FCPA. The DOJ is responsible for civil and criminal enforcement of the anti-bribery provisions as well as the books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA. It has broader jurisdiction than the SEC, and can investigate and bring charges against a broader class of potential defendants. The SEC is only empowered to bring civil charges against issuers of securities and their employees.


In Australia, investigations into suspected bribery of Commonwealth or foreign public officials are conducted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), while prosecutions are handled by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP). The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is also empowered to conduct investigations and to bring civil and criminal proceedings in respect of suspected breaches of the Corporations Act 2001, including conduct that involves suspected fraud or dishonesty.


In China, the Anti-Bribery and Embezzlement section of the People's Procuratorate Office (Procuratorate) (the public prosecutors' office) is responsible for co-ordinating and participating in investigations of criminal matters involving state personnel, including cases involving alleged bribery, embezzlement, misappropriation of public funds, concealing funds deposited overseas, and so on. The Procuratorate is also responsible for conducting prosecutions. The highest level of the Procuratorate is the Supreme People's Procuratorate headquartered in Beijing, which usually handles crimes allegedly involving very senior government officials (such as mayors, governors or Communist Party of China (CPC) secretaries at the provincial level). The local Procuratorate handles matters involving lower level officials.
The Central Committee for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) is the discipline supervision organisation established within the CPC, and is responsible for investigation of alleged bribery and embezzlement involving all levels of CPC members. It is essentially the CPC's anti-corruption watchdog and, accordingly, its focus is on CPC officials rather than commercial organisations.
For foreign bribery offences, it is likely that the Public Security Bureau and the Ministry of Public Security (the Chinese police force) will be involved in investigations, while the Procuratorate will conduct prosecutions. However, it is uncertain which other enforcement agencies may be involved, since there have not yet been any published cases of investigations or prosecutions under Article 164 of the Criminal Law.

Voluntary disclosure of corrupt conduct

Is there a general duty to disclose?

There is no general legal duty to disclose or report known or suspected corrupt activity to law enforcement bodies in the UK, US, Australia or China. However, companies and directors may have duties imposed on them to disclose corrupt activities to auditors, shareholders or regulators by particular local legislation or regulations. For example, in the UK under the Companies Act 2006 (in respect of accounting/audit matters) or the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (in respect of financial services firms' specific duties to report to their regulator), and in Australia under the Corporations Act 2001.
In addition, there are two principal circumstances in which disclosure of suspected corrupt activity may be legally required in the US:
  • Where a company is already under a corporate integrity agreement, deferred prosecution agreement, or a government procurement contract that requires disclosure.
  • Where a failure to report could result in a books-and-records violation of the FCPA.
Corporate self-reporting in bribery and corruption matters to prosecutors, with a view to leniency, plea negotiation or civil settlement is a relatively recent development in the UK, as well as in Australia. There is no general basis for self-reporting or for plea or settlement negotiations under UK or Australian legislation. However, over the last four years the UK's SFO has acknowledged that encouraging self-reporting leads to a less resource-intensive and speedier method of resolving complex bribery and corruption cases.

Is there guidance for self-reporting?

UK. There are two pieces of guidance which have shaped the SFO's current approach to self-reporting:
  • The Attorney General's Guidelines on Plea Discussions in Cases of Serious or Complex Fraud (fraud meaning any financial, fiscal or commercial misconduct or corruption).
  • The Approach of the Serious Fraud Office to Dealing with Overseas Corruption. As part of the incentive for self-reporting, the SFO states its intention to use civil penalties such as Civil Recovery Orders wherever possible instead of criminal sanctions.
The SFO has already had some notable successes from its new approach, resulting in civil recovery and criminal convictions. However, it has not been plain sailing, with the business community and the judiciary being critical of the self-reporting process. From the corporate point of view, the process is fraught with uncertainty. If there is a civil outcome, the parties can negotiate and agree a settlement on their own terms. However, if there is a guilty plea to a criminal charge the outcome is entirely in the hands of a judge and there are, as yet, no firm guidelines on sentencing. From the judges' point of view, plea agreements have been seen as an attempt to curtail their sentencing powers.
US. US enforcement authorities have expressed a preference for self-disclosure and have indicated that more lenient treatment can be forthcoming in considering whether to bring charges, and in the consequences if charges are brought. The DOJ's Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations states that one of the factors a prosecutor should consider in deciding whether to bring criminal charges against a company is the value of the co-operation, the timely and voluntary disclosure of wrongdoing and co-operation with the government's investigation.
In addition, the US Sentencing Guidelines provide that voluntary disclosure will reduce a company's culpability score in the calculation of a fine. Statistically, there appears to be a reduction in fines or other advantages as a result of voluntary disclosure, but nonetheless there remains great debate as to the advantages of voluntary disclosure in the US.
Australia. In Australia, the CDPP conducts prosecutions in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth: Guidelines for the making of decisions in the prosecution process (Prosecution Policy). The Prosecution Policy does not address the issue of voluntary disclosure or co-operation except in relation to accomplices (who may receive reduced sentences or other concessions in exchange for co-operation in the prosecution of another perpetrator). However, the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) provides that when determining the appropriate sentence in a particular matter, a Court must take into account a number of factors including "the degree to which the person has co-operated with law enforcement agencies in the investigation of the offence or of other offences" (section 16A(2)). In that sense, voluntary disclosure and co-operation may assist companies in mitigating their potential liability for suspected bribery or corruption.
For offences with a fault element (either intention, knowledge or recklessness), the relevant fault element will be attributed to a body corporate that expressly, tacitly or impliedly authorised or permitted the commission of the offence in question (section 12, Criminal Code). This may involve proving that the board of directors or senior management actually carried out or authorised the illegal conduct, or that a corporate culture existed that directed, encouraged, tolerated or led to the criminal conduct. A failure to make a voluntary disclosure of suspected bribery or corruption to Australian law enforcement authorities may see corporations fall foul of this provision, with the result that corporate criminal responsibility will be attributed to them.
There is also a possibility that:
  • Individuals and corporations who do not report suspected corrupt activity may be charged with accessorial or conspiracy offences.
  • Directors may be in breach of their directors' duties under the Corporations Act.
  • The corporation may fail to meet its continuous disclosure obligations.
China. Under Article 164 of the Criminal Law, express provision is made for reduction or exemption of the applicable sanction in the event that a person voluntarily discloses conduct that may constitute bribery of a foreign public official. However, given that this is a new offence and that there have not yet been any publicised prosecutions, whether and to what extent law enforcement authorities will adopt a lenient approach to those making voluntary disclosures is not known.
More generally, voluntary disclosure of potentially criminal conduct, and co-operation with relevant law enforcement authorities, are factors that may mitigate potential liability for alleged violations of domestic bribery laws as well. If the value of a given bribe is relatively small and the adverse consequences of the bribe are limited, the Procuratorate may decide not to prosecute the individual or the company at all.

What are the implications of voluntary disclosure for a company?

Voluntary disclosure has serious implications for a company. On one hand, individuals and companies may receive more lenient treatment from law enforcement authorities. On the other hand, they could be revealing conduct that might otherwise have escaped the notice of enforcement authorities and which may be subject to very serious penalties. There is no easy answer to this dilemma. The facts and circumstances in each case will need to be considered in consultation with experienced legal counsel. Certainly in Australia, the UK, and China, the absence of a formal legal process to govern self-reporting means that companies are beginning to understand the value of an early internal preliminary independent investigation conducted by specialist external lawyers, who can advise whether self-reporting is required, or is advisable, in all the circumstances.

What protections can a company put in place when considering disclosure?

The appointment of external lawyers is increasingly important in protecting the product of the investigation with legal professional privilege, which is not generally available in respect of the advice received from accountants or in-house counsel. In Australia and the UK, legal advice privilege attaches to all communications between the client and its external lawyers, and to any document produced by the lawyers to assist the client in the investigation, which would cover any notes and the final advisory report prepared by those lawyers. In the US, attorney client privilege applies to communications the purpose of which is to secure an opinion on the law, legal services, or assistance in some legal proceeding. Maintenance of privilege can be invaluable in protecting information against compulsory disclosure to regulators and prosecutors should there be a decision not to self-report. It is important to be aware that there is no concept of privilege under Chinese law.
In internal investigations, it is important to structure the investigation team to ensure that, as far as possible, privilege will be protected. For example, care should be taken to ensure that any third parties hired to assist in the internal investigation who are not lawyers (such as accounting and audit firms) are engaged by legal counsel to protect privilege to the maximum extent possible. Ideally, the entire investigation team will act under the auspices of the legal team.
If a self-report is made, the presence of external lawyers can lend an air of independence and credibility to the investigation, which may ultimately dissuade the relevant regulator from launching a formal investigation, conducting raids or issuing document production orders, all of which can be damaging and disruptive to the company and its reputation.
The initial approach to the enforcement body is often made by external lawyers on behalf of a company, although a company (or an individual) may approach the enforcement body directly. The external lawyers will then take instructions from the company and liaise with the enforcement body.
In the UK, it is becoming increasingly common for the SFO to ask companies that self-report to instruct external lawyers to undertake a detailed internal investigation of the issues that the SFO considers to be most relevant. The aim is to present a report to the SFO on the extent of the corrupt activities, the financial benefit to the company and the remedial action taken or proposed, so that it can decide what enforcement action, if any, is appropriate. Regardless of the existence of legal professional privilege, the SFO generally has an expectation of full and frank disclosure before it is willing to consider plea negotiation or civil settlement as an alternative to prosecution.
It is expected that proposed new legislation in respect of deferred prosecution agreements, which is to be introduced in the UK during 2012/2013, will bring more transparency and certainty for corporates who wish to self-report, take remedial action and wipe the slate clean.
In the US, if a company decides to make a voluntary disclosure, it is generally considered wise to disclose simultaneously to the relevant law enforcement authorities, although a company could also disclose a potential or actual violation as part of an SEC filing.


It is becoming increasingly important for companies to thoroughly understand, and to develop strategies to ensure compliance with, anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws in force around the world. For companies operating on the world stage, it is not sufficient simply to consider the law in force in the jurisdiction in which the company is headquartered. Legislation such as the Bribery Act has broad extra-territorial reach and can capture conduct engaged in outside the UK by non-UK persons. Accordingly, companies are increasingly adopting policies and operating procedures which mandate conduct of the highest standards, to ensure compliance with their most stringent legal obligations.
Despite best efforts, some companies will inevitably find themselves facing potential corruption concerns. In those circumstances, it will be important to seek legal advice as early as possible so that an internal investigation can be conducted (while protecting privilege as far as possible) and an informed decision can be made about whether (and how) to make a voluntary disclosure to the relevant law enforcement authorities. It is a difficult balancing act and the appropriate course of action will vary from case to case.
*The authors wish to thank Sammy Fang, Partner, and Moore Lu, Associate, from DLA Piper Beijing, for their helpful assistance in the preparation of the China sections of this article.

Contributor details

Amanda Turnill

DLA Piper

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Qualified. Victoria, 1991; High Court of Australia, 1991; Federal Court of Australia, 1991; High Court of England and Wales, 1992; South Australia, 2003; Western Australia, 2003; New South Wales, 2005
Areas of practice. Pharmaceutical and medical device/technology regulation and compliance; product liability; class actions; administrative law; anti-bribery and anti-corruption compliance and investigations.
Recent transactions
  • Advising Australian and international corporate clients on anti-bribery and anti-corruption legislation, investigations and developing compliance programmes for corporate clients.
  • Advising pharmaceutical and medical technology companies on the defence of complex product liability claims; group and class actions; regulatory compliance; and crisis and risk management in Australia and the UK.

Alexandra Chubb

DLA Piper

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Qualified. Australian Capital Territory, 2006; Federal Court and High Court of Australia, 2007
Areas of practice. Product liability; class actions; pharmaceutical and medical device/ technology regulation and compliance; anti-bribery and anti-corruption compliance.
Recent transactions
  • Several major Australian class actions relating to the pharmaceutical and financial services sectors.
  • Advising corporate clients regarding their anti-bribery and anti-corruption obligations within Australia and in other jurisdictions.

Simon Airey

DLA Piper

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Qualified. UK, 1989
Areas of practice. Corporate crime, investigations and compliance.
Recent transactions
  • Specialises in tax and fraud investigations, bribery and corruption-related matters, and corporate compliance issues.
  • Advises and lectures extensively in relation to the UK Bribery Act. He is currently conducting several internal investigations for corporate clients, including two major investigations into facilitation payments within a global logistics group and a global shipping company.
  • Advises clients under investigation by various enforcement authorities, including the Serious Fraud Office, HM Revenue & Customs, and their overseas equivalents.

Debra Baynham

DLA Piper

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Qualified. England and Wales, 1998
Areas of practice. Corporate crime, investigations and compliance.
Recent transactions. Advising clients on all aspects of the UK Bribery Act and the design and implementation of global anti-bribery and corruption compliance programmes.

Carolyn McNiven

DLA Piper

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Qualified. California, US, 1993; Illinois, US, 1993
Areas of practice. Healthcare compliance and enforcement defence, and representing individuals and companies facing complex criminal matters.
Recent transactions. Fraud, FCPA, public corruption, tax, anti-trust, and Dodd-Frank whistleblower investigations and securities matters.

Adjoa Linzy

DLA Piper

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Qualified. Washington DC, US, 2011; North Carolina, US, 2009
Areas of practice. Litigation; international trade and corporate compliance.
Recent transactions
  • Cases involving allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, false advertisement, securities class action and anti-trust litigation.
  • Conducting internal investigations and advising companies on compliance with anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws including the FCPA.