14 Mar 2014 11:00am

FCA beats SFO at prosecuting bribery

The Serious Fraud Office has not completed a bribery case since July 2012, despite the fact that bribery and corruption cost the EU economy £99bn a year, says EY

Yet the Financial Conduct Authority, which only went live in April last year, has already fined one firm – JLTSL, an insurance and brokerage business – £1.8m over its “unacceptable” approach to bribery and corruption risks from overseas payments.

Three other cases that arose during the period were picked up by local police forces and Scotland’s Crown and Procurator Fiscal Service.

EY, which tracks bribery prosecutions in the UK and produces the Bribery Digest, points to research published last month which revealed that 64% of people in the UK believe corruption is common and called for a bigger crackdown on UK firms that bribe their way into contracts overseas.

The firm says that there is a wealth of evidence that bribery and corruption is rife globally but that organisations are getting better at discovery and reporting their suspicions.

“The pipeline of cases for the SFO is ever-growing,” said Jonathan Middup, EY UK head of anti-bribery and corruption. “However, the major prosecution in the past 18 months has not come under the Bribery Act, but the entirely unheralded principle 3 of the FCA’s Principles for Business.

“It states that firms must take reasonable care to control their affairs with adequate risk management – in effect leaving FCA-regulated firms far more exposed than other companies subject only to the Bribery Act.

“In its first case, the FCA has made clear that any failures will be severely punished where a company has checks in place to manage risks, but does not use them effectively. This is a major wake up call to financial firms regulated by the FCA that tick box compliance will not be tolerated and that bribery and corruption is on their radar.”

Julia Irvine


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