I’ve taken the somewhat controversial stance that US companies should take a wait-and-see attitude toward the UK Bribery Act. Specifically, I want to see if the SFO really starts enforcing the private-sector bribery provisions.
I don’t hold the same way with UK companies. If I were the head of a UK company, a Board member or CEO or GC, I would be busy as a bee. Not because I want to change my program to comply with the private-sector provisions, but because there’s an opportunity here that—no pun intended—it would be criminal to pass up.
I had a business colleague once who ran the best results meetings. In her results meetings, you weren’t allowed to use the future tense. It was only actual results that mattered, not potential results, not what was going to happen. What had happened.
But in the UK, there’s an opportunity to stick to the future tense. The UK government is going to bring a case fairly quickly, in my opinion, soon after July 1st. If it were me, I’d bring a case within the first month. More realistically, I’d say the first case will be brought before the end of the year. A UK company should pre-empt. How? By doing serious auditing, right now, to find out any potential problems. Then, you go into the SFO on July 2nd and say, “we’ve found the following four problems, and here’s what we’re going to do about it over the next 18 months. You lay out a realistic, doable plan—in the future tense—and you’re good. You might take a minor hit, but the SFO isn’t going to want to seriously punish a UK company who shows that they’re taking anti-bribery seriously. At the same time, you buy yourself 18 months of breathing space to implement a real plan.
If you don’t go in now, at some point, soon, the window will close, and you’re going to be asked not what you plan to do, but what you’ve done. At that point, self-disclosure might still help, but not as much as if you go in right now. And if you haven’t completed at least some aspects of implementation, you’re going to be in worse trouble.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an excuse to do nothing. You have to come up with a real plan, and you have to execute. But by self-reporting early (very early) you buy yourself control.
What should that plan look like? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother story. Call Barry Vitou, or Tom Fox, or Manny Alas, or John Rupp, or Gary DiBianco. All excellent. If you’re not sure who should help you, give me a call. I’ll offer a free referral service to help you evaluate or choose a consultant who can assist you to revise, enhance, and implement. I’m at +1-917-886-0692. Just a professional courtesy. Be kind and remember the time difference, please.