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Company law: Businesses look to be unaffected by new bribery laws

A survey looking into how businesses have been affected by new bribery legislation implemented last summer has revealed that fewer than one in five has cut levels of corporate entertaining.

The survey also shows that sales for private boxes at Royal Ascot are up 17%, suggesting that the hospitality market remains buoyant.

The survey suggests that the fears of many about the impact of the new laws appear to have been unfounded. Prior to the implementation of the legislation last summer, commentators had suggested that the new laws would hinder UK firms in their bid to compete with rivals from abroad who are subject to less stringent anti-corruption legislation.

John Smart is a partner at Ernst and Young.

"Although the requirements need to be taken very seriously, it is wrong to assume the Act will hurt British competitiveness on the global stage," he said.

The Bribery Act 2010 makes it an offence for commercial organisations to fail to prevent a person associated with them from bribing another person on their behalf.

There are several reasons offered for why the expectations of the Act and the reality have turned out to be different. One is that businesses have been reassured by guidance from the Serious Fraud Office, which investigates such dealings.

The SFO is thought to be investigating many more bribery cases now than before the implementation of the Act. However, they are thought to be focusing on groups using bigger bribes to win major contracts, rather than organisations who are trying to change their culture to one that is more open and transparent.

Another crucial reason is that businesses have been forced to take the provisions of the Act seriously, and in doing so many have tackled the issue of bribery head on.

Graham Cash is chief executive of BAM Group, the UK's third largest construction company .

"We've taken the Bribery Act seriously; we've developed our procedures and trained our staff. The interesting thing is that for the first time, we've seen our clients communicate their policies to us, it's been a positive exercise that's clarified government legislation," he said.

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What is the Bribery Act? (FindLaw)