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As corporate lawyers have been waiting patiently for the U.S. Department of Justice to issue updated guidance on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office came out with some unexpected guidance of its own, clarifying how prosecutors on the other side of the Atlantic will prosecute bribery. The guidance addresses three primary areas: facilitation payments, business expenditures (such as hospitality and gifts), and self-reporting. Initial reactions from lawyers centered on the latter. Reynolds Porter Chamberlain partner Richard Burger told Reuters: “The new SFO policy means that self-reporting by businesses of potential incidents of bribery and corruption, which used be like a cozy fireside chat, has been replaced by a much a stricter regime.” According to the SFO’s website: “Self-reporting is no guarantee that a prosecution will not follow. Each case will turn on its own facts.” That sentiment is reiterated in an online Q-and-A section about the new policies:
Will the SFO communicate with corporate bodies about their past or future conduct? The SFO encourages corporate self-reporting, and will always listen to what a corporate body has to say about its past conduct; but the SFO offers no guarantee that a prosecution will not follow any such report.