Facilitation payments – a collective approach

David Green CB QC, Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), recently circulated an open letter, Enforcement of the United Kingdom's Bribery Act - Facilitation Payments, providing further guidance on facilitation payments under the Bribery Act 2010. So, what was Mr Green’s message for businesses and what can we do to stamp out requests for facilitation payments?

The SFO’s guidance

In this latest guidance, Mr Green reinforces the message that facilitation payments (money or gifts given to a public official to carry out certain tasks, such as visa applications) are illegal under the Bribery Act 2010 regardless of their size or frequency. The message is simple: if you’re a company with a UK presence and pay facilitation payments directly, or through agents, then you’re at risk of criminal prosecution in the UK.

Reporting requests for payments

Mr Green advises that if a UK national or company is asked to make a facilitation payment overseas they should inform the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) via the local embassy, high commission or consulate. A report will then be sent to the SFO who will decide what action to take against the public official.

Collective action

We’re currently working with clients who have concerns about operating in jurisdictions where facilitation payments are seen to be an unavoidable way of doing business. We work with our clients to find practical solutions that allow them to operate legally in these jurisdictions. We’ve also approached the FCO on behalf of our clients as a collective group and are working with them to ensure overseas governments are aware of the difficulties UK corporate organisations face in doing business in jurisdictions considered to be high risk.

How we can help you

The Bribery Act 2010 remains a global issue for companies that have a UK presence. Working in conjunction with PwC LLP’s Forensics Team we bring together the combined knowledge and expertise of both firms to help businesses deal with the challenges brought about by the Bribery Act 2010. Being a member of the PwC global network means that we have significant global reach and can give pragmatic and informed real-time advice to our clients on local issues.

If you’ve been asked to make a facilitation payment and would like to discuss in confidence how PwC Legal can assist you in dealing with these types of request, or would like to find out more about working collectively with other UK corporate organisations to help stamp out such payments, please contact either Ben Cooper on 020 7804 2108 or Chris Cartmell 020 7212 8849.