back to article Blighty's new anti-bribe law will do more HARM than good

We used to draw a distinct line between what was acceptable business conduct here at home and what we did abroad with Johnny Foreigner. Inviting Bertie from your major customer to Henley or the Derby, or waving Cup Final and Olympic tickets in his face was entirely acceptable. Slipping him £500 for an order was bribery and …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gimme a fiver

    and i'll be nice about this article, it won't be a bribe though. Oh no, it will be a reward for responsible readership.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So that's it

      No more exports anymore, oh I forgot, bribing the Indian Government with Aid in return for buying our aircraft didn't work anyway. So maybe we'll save money and become more competitive at then tender stage.

  2. mark 63 Silver badge

    "and what we did abroad with Johnny Foreigner."

    You can say that again. Marching in and stealing all their shit and enslaving people was outlawed in the country long before it became against foreign policy

    (1) Jamaica and slavery,

    (2) the Irish famine,

    (3) the Opium Wars and Taiping Rebellion (though not the Boxers),

    (4) the Sepoy Rebellion,

    (5) the colonization of Egypt,

    (7) the settling and revolt of interwar Palestine,

    (8) Indian independence,

    (9) the Suez Crisis,

    (10) the Mau-Mau Rebellion,

    (11) the suppression of the revolt in Malaya,

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      It's important to not feel too much guilt about what our imperialistic forefathers did - if we hadn't been doing it, another European power would have been. You could go to any of the Imperial powers and produce another laundry list of dirty deeds. This isn't even a British or even European thing, Imperial Japan has its own long list of atrocities (ask any Korean).

      What is more important is that we learn from our history and act more decently from now onwards to the rest of the world as a nation. Which we do.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge
        Holmes

        Others are doing it, so it's OK?

        "if we hadn't been doing it, another European power would have been."

        You can make exactly the same argument now. If British companies can't pay bribes in Russia, the middle East etc, then they'll lose business to the Chinese or whoever else IS ready to pay the bribes. I would say well done to Britain for putting this moral stand ahead of profiting from dubious / dodgy business practices.

        Hopefully such legislation will extend gradually across the EU and other countries, until regimes requiring bribes will start to find no takers and gradually come clean. Sure, it will take decades, and in these decades some British businesses will lose contracts from dodgy countries.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sorry Mark, there are at least four Imperialists that don't feel the same way as you.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You missed one

      The Iranian Clusterf*** and how the British intervention, termination of a democratic government and installment of the Pehlevi family created the fertile soil for the Islamic revolution a few decades later.

      This one is something we and our children will be paying for during the next 50 years (atfer the middle east conflict goes nuclear in the next decade).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You missed one

        Look harder; that was the Yanks (CIA) who caused that not the British. The CIA decided any president that had talks with Russia must be a raving commie. As opposed to someone talking to the head of state of a neighbouring country.

    4. Spider
      Stop

      Give it a rest

      How many of these acts did readers here participate in? Or even the wider UK population?

      If you tried to hold any population other than the UK responsible for the sins of their fathers I suspect you would be one of the first to criticise.

      You forget of course to mention that Britain lead the way in ending slavery, and the RN freed many would be slaves on the way between the african salvers and their US market. Guess that doesn't fit with the general anti imperialist kick...

      anyways back to the subject...

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge
        IT Angle

        Re: Give it a rest

        Intriguingly, as I read this lunch time, a lot of the RN ships that fought/stopped/impounded the slave traders as they crossed the Atlantic from Africa were Bermuda Sloops, most of which were designed, built and manned by Bermudan slaves.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blame the US

    They started complaining that BAE managed to out-bribe them in Saudi Arabia while pretending that they weren't attempting to do the exact same thing. This hits the media which causes our politicians to step in pretending they knew nothing about it and then wanting to be shown to be being tough on corruption to get votes in the next election.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blame the US - Yep

      Anything we do that has any US involvement is covered by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act so the Bribery Act is simply bringing us into line with that. That doing business (and competing against Chinese suppliers) in some countries is now going to be pretty much impossible (without breaking British law) is another matter altogether.

      My guess? Businesses will observe the 11th commandment carefully.

      AC because I mentioned the 11th commandment.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blame the US - Yep

        The US has a law against it, so therefore it never happens.

        Ho ho ho.

        The only reason the US can claim to be pearly white is that US companys have had 40 years to perfect their techniques to hide bribes under layers of 'agent fees' or 'payments for services' or even through shell foreign companies setup to divert money straight into others pockets.

        I have spent 30 years working overseas and everyone knew that the Americans bribed along with the rest of us, and the Americans admitted it (in private). I have even had Americans tell me that American officials gave advice on how to setup their finances so they can present a clean sheet to any auditors or law enforcement officials. Bribes was how business was done We knew, the Americans knew it and the UK and US Governments knew it .

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Blame the US - Yep

          Try and do a trade show in the US:

          $100 to the teamsters so your kit gets off the loading dock and to your stand

          $20 to each of the electricians to allow you to turn on your own lights on your own booth

          $20 tucked under the trash can so your booth gets cleaned.

          1. toadwarrior

            Re: Blame the US - Yep

            I never had to do that but I don't treat people like piece of dog shit. Maybe that's the difference.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Trade Shows

            That sounds less like bribary on your part, and more like extortion on their part.

      2. AdamWill

        Re: Blame the US - Yep

        Right. The U.S. already has such a law (the FCPA, as you point out) which they seem pretty damn enthusiastic about. I have to take an annual refresher course on it even though I'm not remotely connected to sales of any kind and am about as likely to be in a position to bribe anyone anywhere as I am to win the Derby.

        If it was such a terrible hindrance to export performance, you'd think one of the U.S. parties would have started raising a stink by now.

        1. Number6

          Re: Blame the US - Yep

          If there was no law then the cost of bribes would increase. As it is, anyone wanting to accept money from a company subject to a bribery law understands that there's a practical limit to how much can be passed off as 'fees' before questions are asked. Therefore, the law as it is operated assists doing business in corrupt places by putting an effective limit on the amount.

      3. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Blame the US - Yep

        The foreign currupt practices act only bans bribing of foreigners. Bribing American politicians in the form of campaign contributions is perfectly legal.

        The Bribery Act bans it everywhere, UK included. The first prosecution was against a magistrate's court clerk who accepted bribes for "forgetting" to log motoring offences on the DVLA database.

    2. WonkoTheSane

      Re: Blame the US

      Two words:-

      Lockheed. Luftwaffe.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Blame the US

        The Germans are going to bomb Lockheed Martin?

        1. WonkoTheSane
          Facepalm

          Re: Blame the US

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_bribery_scandals

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bribery in the tech industry.

    What sickens me is how "review" bribes and "promotional events" are used in the tech industry to get press coverage. Microsoft are the big offenders here (Free Xbox360 slim for every E3 attendee, and guess what everyone was raving about the following week... Acer Ferarri laptops if you say nice things about Vista... the list goes on and on....)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bribery in the tech industry.

      It's (only) advertising if you are trying to get press coverage. And we know that's as bent as a 9-bob note.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bribery in the tech industry.

      My former US employer enacted a double-standard.

      One day, the rule fell down from on-high. We now were allowed absolutely nothing -- no vendor-sponsored lunches (which had been sandwiches at a local restaurant and no booze), no t-shirts, no LED-bouncy-balls, no pens-with-corporate-logos-on-them, nothing. Upper-level management continued to travel out-of-town to vendor-hosted-and-paid-for "product reviews" at vendors' HQs.

      I'm not sure which pissed me off more: that management thought we peons would choose brand X over brand Y because brand X reps gave us a sandwich and a t-shirt, or that upper management continued -- post-new-rule-invocation -- on vendor-financed trips and ended up buying multi-million dollar software packages that were/are a pain in the ass to implement, and a significant, continuing drain on tech-time to maintain.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh for god's sake

    If it's not acceptable over here then don't do it over there either. You and others like you are/were directly contributing to the coontinuation of this crap in other places and deserve to be called on it.

    Frankly the corporate schmoozing deserves a bit of scrutiny too. I'm not sure it should be illegal as such, but it's ridiculous cronyism. In this so-called age of austerity, to have the upper echelons using the profits of business to treat each other to a jolly nice time while the proles scratch around in the mud seems a little offensive.

    Also, sod the Olympics.

    If this puts the UK at a disadvantage then so be it. It's time we got some backbone and stood up for a moral and just world. "Business friendly" seems these days to be nothing but a codeword for "screw the ethical consequences".

    1. spencer

      disagree

      In some places things just get done differently.

      But yes - sod the Olympics.

    2. hplasm Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Oh for god's sake

      Ok- go for it.

      . And don't forget to save the slush fund to replace the kit the now 'non-offended' dock workers have 'accidentally' dropped in the ocean.

      It may not be gentlemanly conduct, but some people aren't gentlemen, and greasy-palmed officials doubly so.

    3. Graham Marsden

      Re: Oh for god's sake

      "If it's not acceptable over here then don't do it over there either. "

      It's all very well saying "play a straight bat, keep it above board, don't play their dirty games", but, especially in the current economic climate, the vast majority of businesses are going to play whatever games they can and by whatever rules are available in order to clinch a contract.

      You don't like it, I don't like it, but the other option is risking bankruptcy.

    4. John Sturdy

      Re: Oh for god's sake

      Honesty and openness have been known to succeed in the past --- that's why businesses run by Quakers did so well.

    5. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Oh for god's sake -@OP

      How jolly enlightened of you to insist that we can teach those foreign johnnies how to do things properly. After all, they are just savages who don't know that taking a bribe is a bad thing, and, given time, they will learn what a big mistake they have been making all the time, and thank us for our beneficence.

      Alternatively, what makes you think that "our" way is so right that it should be adopted by the world, who have been doing it the other way for centuries, if not millennia?

      1. Bumpy Cat
        WTF?

        Re: Oh for god's sake @Potsherd

        Did you ... did you just say bribe-taking is part of their culture, and it's an old tradition, so it's all good?

        On the whole, countries with low corruption do better, and are nicer places to live. Unless you *like* your wealthy elite living by different rules. And don't even try to suggest that's the case in the UK - try countries where a powerful businessman can send a mob of gangsters to beat you up, and then have the police arrest you for objecting.

  6. Jamie Kitson

    What a shit headline

    Whoever wrote that head line should be taken out and hosed down with cold water.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: What a shit headline

      Well, it is rather warm, so why not?

      C.

      1. relpy
        Stop

        Re: What a shit headline

        Steady.

        Hosepipe ban.

        1. 142
          Alert

          Re: What a shit headline

          Ha! check today's news...

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Trollface

    I detect a lack of progressivism and state worship at El Reg.

    Come on guys, with the right laws we can CHANGE REALITY FOR THE BETTER AND LIFT HUMANS TO A HIGHER SPIRITUAL PLANE. Whether they want to or not.

    Now for that law imposing women quotas in boardrooms...

    1. AdamWill
      Facepalm

      Re: I detect a lack of progressivism and state worship at El Reg.

      Well, yes, yes we can.

      For instance, the ban on slavery. I'd say that did a pretty good job in changing reality for the better and lifting humans to a higher spiritual plane.

      Or, hey, I can give you an example more suited to your likely political tastes, if you like, with thanks to George Macdonald Fraser, who is fond of pointing out that one of the terrible terrible acts of the heinous British Empire in India was to outlaw such quaint local customs as the burning alive of widows. That probably didn't do such a bad job in the spiritual plane stakes either.

      1. John A Blackley

        Re: I detect a lack of progressivism and state worship at El Reg.

        Slavery has been banned?

        I thought it was still going on.

        1. Mad Mike
          Thumb Down

          Re: I detect a lack of progressivism and state worship at El Reg.

          Depends how you define 'slavery'. If you mean explicit ownership, yes you're right. If you mean someone so financially tied to another entity (whether person or company) that any attempt to change anything will result in an extremely unpleasant outcome, no it isn't.

          All the ban on slavery did was remove the absolute ownership angle, which was only ever a piece of paper. They simply implemented the control in a different way, so the situation didn't more on much. There are many hundreds of millions of people on this planet today working under conditions not unlike the slavery conditions of before. So, has it really moved on that much?

          1. AdamWill

            Re: I detect a lack of progressivism and state worship at El Reg.

            I think that's frankly a reduction too far. The various bans on slavery were absolutely landmarks in the history of their respective nations; ask any American how important the liberation of domestic slaves was. The British abolition process is less well remembered by Brits now but it was absolutely seismic at the time, and it was a huge factor in the development of enlightenment and modern thought regarding absolute human rights.

            Is it right to be concerned about how many people in the world still live in terrible conditions, or those who still are in actual slavery? Sure. But is it right to dismiss the significance of the British and American anti-slavery reforms? I think it absolutely isn't. The abolition of slavery was an inevitable consequence of the development of enlightenment values in both countries (and others which went through similar processes), but the abolition and more importantly the _debates_ on abolition were also a vital _part_ of that development. I think it's vastly wrong-headed and probably dangerous to suggest that abolition of slavery wasn't really significant.

            Sorry, closet history grad here...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How can an article on this subject not mention US FCPA?

    Several commentards seem to be more aware of legal (US FCPA) and practical (BAe, Blair, SaudiArabia, Serious Fraud Office) reality than El Reg's favourite precious metals barrowboy.

    I suppose there's no bribery and corruption goes in the precious metals sector.

    1. Anonymous Coward 101
      Thumb Down

      Re: How can an article on this subject not mention US FCPA?

      "I suppose there's no bribery and corruption goes in the precious metals sector."

      You must have missed the bit where the author said:

      "At one point, working in Russia, I needed to get cheap railway prices out of the Russian railroads to make the numbers on a metals shipment add up. The only way known to do this was to make a deal with the North Koreans who had special state-set prices on said railways. Which is how I found myself inside the N. Korean embassy in Moscow handing over $10,000 in crisp notes to their KGB-style guy after the successful conclusion of the shipment."

    2. Tim Worstal

      Re: How can an article on this subject not mention US FCPA?

      Strangely, the FCPA does allow payments which under the Bribery Act would not be allowed.

      For example, in the very large supermarket chain case being talked about right now.

      Did the gringos pay the usual going rate to get the papers through the planning process quickly? Or did they make the payments to get the papers through the planning process?

      Both would be illegal under the Bribery Act. Only the latter under the FCPA.

  9. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Catalona, Spain

    No, I'd say the southern line can be definitely be drawn above the Pyrenees.

    The writer hasn't heard of Millet, Pretoria, banks 'disappearing' people's savings, 3%... the latest one which sprang up just last week is the ombudsman for the region going off on jollies paid for with his organisations' budget which comes out of general taxation.

    And no, it's not good to bribe.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Catalona, Spain

      Downvoter not aware of the recent report by Transparency International that found a clear link between the PIIGS and corruption?

    2. John Sturdy

      Re: Catalona, Spain

      Well above the Pyrenees, in fact: OLAF (the EU's anti-corruption office) is under suspicion: see for example http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/3464034/Now-the-European-Unions-own-anti-fraud-watchdog-Olaf-is-under-investigation.html

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eastern Europe...

    I think this law will put us out of the running for any business in Eastern Europe.

    A close friend of mine has recently purchased some property over there, and he said that to keep the gears turning efficiently, every meeting was conducted with a suitable stiff drink, and a brown envelope changing hands. He said it wasn't so much under the table, but right on top of it!

    I've personally bunged a wedge of cash to night club bouncers to get into a club (a party of 12 English males are looked upon with suspicion in Krakow). It's the way things work. It's not seen as an insult to their integrity. There was actually a negotiation as to the suitable number of notes required.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eastern Europe...

      That is one way. There is another.

      Look at what big Russian companies are doing. Every time they have to do a major acquisition or "facilitate a privatisation" in a foreign country they hire a "cultural background" consultant which does an analysis of the cultural background and what to do and what not. I have Russian friends who have worked in this capacity and they earn enough for some black caviar served by scantily clad long legged ladies on top of the "bread and butter". However, as result their work their customers get away with a fraction of the "corporate expenses budget". They often do not need to bribe at all - they simply create appropriate "vested interest" opportunities. Just look at how gas exports from Russia were structured to Ukraine and a few other countries as an example for this.

      Compared to that UK, US come with their "own rulebook" which ends up in them having to carpet bribe. That is frankly stupid, counterproductive and waste of money. There a better way - if you do not want to do your homework in advance and pay for local knowledge you should use (hire) a local who (if needed) will precision bribe for you.

      I also own stuff in Eastern Europe and I have never paid a bribe myself. In fact, one of the very few times I have had to use a local "lubrication facilitator" he managed to get away without bribing anyone, just by knowing the right people and calling debts for old favours.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Eastern Europe...

        "There a better way - if you do not want to do your homework in advance and pay for local knowledge you should use (hire) a local who (if needed) will precision bribe for you."

        The FCPA specifically covers this. Paying someone else to bribe for you is old had and covered by the legislation.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Eastern Europe...

        > That is one way. There is another. [....]

        Well said that (man|woman|thing).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eastern Europe...

      I had to bung the Ukrainian Police 200 so they would suddenly forget i had driven the wrong way down a unmarked one way street that they had staked out. in the middle of the night (they were pulling traffic going in either direction ?)

      Sucks to be them now, they have all been given a 2G/3G credit card processing machine now to cut down on back handers and ensure all fines are processed properly.

      Im pretty sure they will still be accepting notes in vehicle registration documents for years to come though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Eastern Europe...

        > I had to bung the Ukrainian Police [....]

        Do you speak the local language by any chance? If they were pulling traffic going either direction chances are it's not that you were going the wrong way, but that the street is closed to traffic during night hours, so local residents can sleep.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eastern Europe...

      > a party of 12 English males are looked upon with suspicion in Krakow

      You seem surprised by that.

  11. Homer 1
    Devil

    Deal with the Devil

    "For what happens when you try to do business in a country that doesn't have this social rule"

    Then don't.

    Or is that too obvious?

    In other shocking news, robbing banks is highly profitable, but illegal - another "social rule" that criminals whine about.

    1. Marshalltown
      Thumb Down

      Re: Deal with the Devil

      It isn't just business, laddy-buck. There are countries where the authorities are all shake-down artists and nothing at all happens without dickering and baksheesh, nothing. You won't even get a table in a restaurant. Nothing has a fixed price, and everything has a price. People are poor, poorly paid, and the "law" such as it is, is designed to keep the hoi poloi poor and in their place. It will only be enforced for the benefit of some small, wealthy clique that effectively owns the country. See Russia and kleptocracy for a good example. Sometimes, it is just parts of a country or social strata - Israel is that way some places. The Jewish majority has one set of ethics and oughts, the Palestinians another, and while the situations where things are different can be discerned with a religious test, the differences aren't religiously established. Business and business ethics are cultural and situational. Thinking that they shouldn't be (your "then don't") is so ethnocentric it practically reeks of what is so commonly referred is "colonialism." It isn't of course, merely cultural arrogance and ignorance parading as morality.

      1. Homer 1
        Childcatcher

        Re: Deal with the Devil

        Speaking of "colonialism", what makes you think you have any obligation to deal with foreign countries at all, in business or otherwise, and why do you therefore feel compelled to support any corruption that may be "necessary" to engage in those dealings?

        Sounds like the disingenuous protestations of a narcissist ("But how am I supposed to rob a bank, without a shotgun, M'lud?").

        I find it highly disturbing that I should be down-voted for daring to agree that bribery is immoral, and that such an assertion must be the result of "cultural ignorance", especially when most of the world's corruption originates in my own culture, as people with your casual disregard for morality demonstrate quite adequately.

  12. hugo tyson
    FAIL

    Anti-bribery training

    Having had the pathetic multiple-choice anti-bribery training here at work, I have to agree. The letter of the law appears to say that you can't fit in with local culture when abroad. For one thing it's extra-territoriality.

    But yes, it's been my opinion for ages that this stupidity will just cause UK plc to fail to get any foreign contracts.

    1. Charles Manning

      You miss the point of anti-bribery training

      The main point is not to actually train the staff. The purpose to give the company an out: "We did everything we could, but ..."

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bribery - Kenya stylee

    Story I heard from a US company a few years ago (IIRC it was C&W) who wanted to built a satellite downlink station somewhere in East Africa. They looked at Kenya, until the minister told them that it would cost them $250,000 to get "permission". They looked at the deal, realised that it was *Kenya* that would benefit most from the project, and prompty put the station in Tanzania.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bureaucracy legitimises people's greed.

    If as part of the contract of sale there is a little box that has an agreed commission for sales person, which is then paid to them as a bonus by their employer, exactly the same thing has happened as if I had paid him a bribe (except the sales person probably will find it harder to hide the payment from their tax man). How is this (which I assume would also be totally legitimate in the UK) moral, whereas paying a bribe isn't. Because there is a paper trail for the tax-man?

    The new law is just an example of how bureaucracy is used to legitimise aspects of capitalism that would otherwise be repugnant to people. If someone has filled in 100s of forms and paid all relevant 'duties' to various government offices in all countries concerned then people assume it must all be legit. A paper trail does not change the morality of the situation.

    1. Homer 1
      Childcatcher

      Re: Bureaucracy legitimises people's greed.

      Commission is a legitimate payment for services rendered by those directly responsible for the product/service being sold. It's not an ultimatum presented by an official unrelated to the product/service, who abuses his powers to force you to pay him literally "for nothing".

      Capitalism is not immoral - people are, and immoral people don't need capitalism to practice their immorality, they just need opportunity, which is far more likely to present itself under a system of lax regulations.

      I find it odd that libertarians see no problem with regulating human behaviour, which unchecked tends towards immorality, but then whine about business regulations, when in fact these all-powerful, expansionist and intrinsically narcissistic corporations pose a much greater threat.

      It reeks of hypocrisy.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I fail to see the issue here. For many years I worked in petrochem and all the jobs we did for middle east states were priced using "Cost Price + Contingency" + "Profit margin" + "facilitation fee" = Total price. I don't know a company that didn't do this but of course nobody would admit to doing it. Simply that was the way you did business.

    On a different level the first time I went to work in Nigeria I was given a "bribe sheet" which outlined the levels of acceptable bribes for anybody you might come across, customs officials, government lackeys, local warlords, taxi drivers etc.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Indeed. You can take the moral high-ground and watch the humanitarian aid rot in the docks or pay a commercial "customs agent" to facilitate its release.

      Also, is tipping in restaurants now illegal and immoral?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Agreed, tipping is definitely a form of bribery. If I have a reputation as a big tipper (I don't) I will probably get preferable treatment to other customers from staff in a restaurant/hotel etc. That seems to fall foul of the new law.

        The only situation in which I see 'bribery' as immoral is when it is used to gain access to something that you would not otherwise legally be entitled to: political influence, letting drugs through customs, evading tax/import duty, getting out of being arrested, getting a cabbie to break the speed limit etc. 'Bribing' in the form of a tip or commission to get business or favourable treatment should not be illegal.

  16. Trollslayer Silver badge

    Level plpaying field

    The US and other countries have similar legislation, it protects politicians.

    Naturally the US legislation only deals with interaction with foreign companies.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to work for Siemens

    They had a big push about 10 years back to make sure that every transaction with foreign partners was above board and no bribes were taking place.

    Imagine then my delight at finding out a few years later that senior figures where not complying with their own policy and were up in court with big fines looming!

    Once again big corporations, say one thing and do another.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I used to work for Siemens

      Same with Intel. They had a real "holy-than-thou" attitude, even firing one poor sod who accepted a T-shirt from a booth at a trade show. Then some emails got leaked to the SEC....

  18. Mad Mike
    FAIL

    Irrelevant and rubbish law

    This is all absolutely pointless and won't change a thing in the long term. If person/company x wants to pay person/company y a bride, they can and will. All that will happen is the method will change in structure. Instead of handing over crisp notes, it'll be part of the contract. After all, I could pay a company £250k for something and hand over £10k in notes, or pay them £270k and the person takes a 'bonus' of £20k. The only difference is that it has to be £20k because of the additional tax etc. this method causes.

    As only some bribes are in money, this will only affect a few anyway. Plenty of bribes are effectively a you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours arrangement. Look at business executives who have been doing it for years. I'll sit on your pay and remuneration committee and give you a massive pay rise. Then, you can sit on someone elses and do the same, whilst their person sits on mine and gives me a big payrise. Just as morally wrong, but perfectly legal. Doubt this law will stop it.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Irrelevant and rubbish law

      There is a slight difference between a bribe and a more expensive contract.

      Here Mr Health Minister is $50K in cash for you to pick my company's $2M contract to run your hospital rather than my competitors $1M bid. Don't worry it's only taxpayers money and you can save that by cutting back on doctors.

      1. Mad Mike

        Re: Irrelevant and rubbish law

        Not at all. The issue with money is that it's traceable and there are loads of laws around it. Bung him $50k and you'll probably get caught under this legislation because you've been silly enough to use something traceable.

        Obvious answer, just take care of him and his relatives for free for the duration of the contract. Much harder to prove, especially when you bill them, but the bills are simply rather lower than one might think. After all, who says what something should cost.

        There are ways round anything in this area and all the laws in world just make people more imaginative. Just imagine this minister gets a nice directorship from the company when he leaves politics!! Now, that's never happened, has it!!

        There's a whole profession based on getting around laws etc., they're called accountants. They've been finding ways of moving money around legally for dubious reasons for years. They're very good at it and stay ahead of the laws easily as George Osborne and HMRC have found out recently. You'll never stop this.

        1. Tim Worstal

          Re: Irrelevant and rubbish law

          One FTSE listed metals company was recently accused of paying for the US university education of the son of the regional police chief somewhere out in the 'Stans.

          "Obvious answer, just take care of him and his relatives for free for the duration of the contract."

          Quite.

  19. John A Blackley

    Turkeys and Christmas

    For all those, above, who are so morally upright that they don't hesitate to condemn bribes and bribery I pray that you never depend on an employer that, in turn, depends for its business on being able to participate in local custom.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the law of unintended consquences

    No doubt we will now see donations to political parties considered as bribes for favorable laws/regulations.

    1. seraphim

      Re: the law of unintended consquences

      Nicho said:

      "No doubt we will now see donations to political parties considered as bribes for favorable laws/regulations."

      Isn't that surprising, since that is exactly what they are.

  21. Peter Galbavy
    Facepalm

    Corruption & bribery are ways of life "over there"

    At my previous employers - a large US-based bank - we had mandatory Compliance Training they referred to bribes euphemistically as "facilitation payments"; it was consider acceptable that "it may be necessary, depending on the local circumstances, to offer facilitation payments to officals". But bribes were verboten,. Yeah, right.

    Oh, and in Hungary - my ancestral home - try getting any form of public medical treatment without envelopes changing hands to make sure you get a clean bed, fresh food and even surgery by someone who knows how to hold a scalpel.

  22. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    My heart bleeds ...

    "Those people selling expensive corporate Olympics packages have complained that this very uncertainty has led to a large fall in demand." Well, there is one pointless sector that does not serve the public interest (those tickets should have gone to taxpayers who are funding the Olympic(TM) shitfest), and I would be very happy to see vanish forever.

    The law of unintended consequences strikes again!

  23. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

    And another thought ...

    Where does "expedited service" end and bribery begin? If the basic level of service can be regarded as "We cannot guarantee that your consignment will end up where you want it", then it isn't it merely an insurance policy to pay a little extra to the people involved?

  24. toadwarrior

    Managers and directors like to pay bribes because it makes their job exciting and they have something to talk about with their fellow fat, impotent, waste of human flesh co-workers

    You either fail as a human being (as many of these people do) or your product sucks (as many do) if you need to bribe someone to buy into. We rather not have you push you crap on us so this is a good law. I can only hope they really enforce it.

  25. Ember
    Pirate

    Where and When

    I am all for strickter rules concerning bribery and any other form of corruption. I even would say that anybody found guilty of corruption should be disowned and baned for life from any position or office of authority..

    BUT

    Brittish law ends at Brittish borders. Once I am within the territory of another country, that country's laws aply, NOT Brittish laws. If one's nationality or main residency was the deciding factor and not the place of deed, then no country would be legally able to prosecute foreign criminals unless their deed is illegal in their own home country as well.

    What right do we have to tell other countries what is right and what is wrong?

    By international law, unless they changed it within the last 10 years, anything done at a place and time where it is legal can not be punnished even if it later becomes illegal. If bribery is allowed in Russia and i commit bribery in Russia, I can't be legally punnished for it. If it is illegal in Brittain and I do it in Russia, I still can't be prosecuted for it even if I live in Brittain and after the deed return to Brittain. If it becomes next year illegal in Russia, I can not be prosecuted for the bribes I paid this year, only for any bribes I pay AFTER the new law comes into effect, not for the ones before.

    Ever wondered why authorities have problems to prosecute crimes happenning in International Waters??

    If at the time I do it in the place I do it it is legal, I can not legally be punnished, I can only be punnished if it is illegal at the time and place it is commited

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Where and When

      This is patently not true. British (1 't' btw) laws can and do extend to british citizens abroad for various things. Go to Thailand and do a Garry Glitter, and the UK plod can and will do you for that. Bribery isn't any different.

      The basis for this comes from the fact that abroad you are travelling on a UK passport, which gives you certain rights - the ability to travel to another country, chiefly - and certain responsibilities, including not bribing people and sex tourism.

      You want the rights, but none of the responsibilities. Tough.

      1. Ember
        Pirate

        Re: Where and When

        I know that they can and will, yet they are by international law not allowed to. It is common for countries, especially european countries and the USA to think themselves as the measure of all standarts and to asume rights over other nations, judge other cultures by their own ideals and so on. But being a, supposedly, more moral or more developed nation soes not make it any more right or just. Quite the opposite. Claiming to be on the moral highground, we should even more respect other cultures and other nation's souverantiy and their right to have their own laws. It is acceptable of a fashist dictatorship to discriminate against the validity of other country's laws, that is after all part of what makes them what they are, but not for us.

        As you say, travelling on a UK passport gives me certain rights and limitations, yet, if even during travels I am still bound to Brittish national laws, why am I also just as much bound to the laws of the country I am travelling? And when two laws oppose each other, how dare a country claim their law to be superior to the country where the deed happens? Answer, the country within which the deed is done decides if the deed is a criminal act, if it offenses, if damage is caused...or if not. Anything else would be proposterous, asumptous,arogant and exceeing the boundaries of one's authority.

        It is just as wrong to demand the rights we have in our own country while being in a country where we would not have such rights. If someone form a country, say... Russia, to stay with that excmaple, travels to UK on a Russian passport, your reasoning would permit that said Russian to commit bribery in Uk. He isn't. WHy not? Because he is Russian and UK law is superior to Russian law? Or is it just a matter of, you get all the restrictions the authorities can possibly think up but non of the rights that come with the territory?

        When in Rome do as the Romans.

        If you refuse or feel morally or otherwise unable to comply to the cultural or legal precepts of the country you are entering, STAY OUT. If you insist that the country you are visiting or migrating to conforms to accept your culture and laws while you reject theirs, STAY OUT When it is the legal and moral norm in Russia to bribe your way, then when you're in Russia, bribe your way.

        If any nation's law takes priority to others, then its the laws of the nation within whom's territory the law is applicable, UK law takes priority over other nation's law only within UK, Russion law is superior to any other nation's law only within Russian borders, American law rules America, etc....for any legal subject of border-crossing matter, we have international law, and this international law states, you can not be done for something that is legal at the time and in the place that you do it.

      2. Mad Mike
        Thumb Down

        Re: Where and When

        Absolutely not. A British passport gives you only one right. The right to have your embassy in the country try to help you. It absolutely does not give you the right to travel to another country. It's that countries decision if they allow you in or not. You can't waive your passport and demand entry. The passport then implies your responsibilities if you choose to return to the UK. You can do a Gary Glitter in Thailand and you'll probably be absolutely OK, provided you don't return to the UK.

        Taking a high and mightly moral position on bribery when it is so prevalent in many areas of the world is simply arrogance. It's also delusional. Bribery is just as prevalent here, it's just hidden. At least in other countries they're open about it and aren't hypocrits. Just look at local councils to see the underhand tricks and you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours going on. Preferred or certified suppliers is one of the biggest cons in history with people paying good money to get on those lists.

  26. Ross 7

    "If bribery in Chinese business circles is so prevalent and aggressive as to affront even an Arab near-dictatorship then what hope have British businesses got when we're still not sure whether tickets to the rugby are an illegal bribe or not?"

    Ah, but the point of that case was simply that they bribed the 'wrong' people.

    New laws always present new questions. The CPS will be issued with guidance on when it is appropriate to prosecute and when it is not. Any half decent legal dept will have a gander and make sure that they brief their bosses on how to ensure they stay under the parapet.

    An outright ban on bribery will inevitably make it more difficult for UK business to compete abroad, but so does anything that improves society as a rule. We don't have much manufacturing industry now 'cause we can't compete with Chinese (forced) labour. Should we lower our working conditions to match, or look to improve working conditions for others, and/or sell on added value (like Fairtrade etc)

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    who us, no , not us

    It was asked whether 'free' industry secondees into government were bribes and there were assurances they weren't ....

    How about interns, loss leaders, free advice, free software viewers linked to commercial products ...

  28. Jonas Taylor
    FAIL

    I couldn't care less for the advocates of bribery

    I am completely in favour of anti-bribery laws. It may be argued that they make the UK less competitive when dealing with foreign cultures but does morality and common decency not matter? Subverting the economies and laws of other countries for financial gain should not be tolerated. We need to stop modelling ourselves on the super-capitalism so avidly pursued by the US.

    PS - What an utterly self-involved and pompous article.

  29. Antony Riley
    Facepalm

    And?

    Register branch in foreign country where bribery is not illegal off local soil, do it in the name of said branch, claim it as an expense in that country, carry on as normal?

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