Anti-bribery laws反商业贿赂法Palms ungreased揩油
A long-delayed anti-bribery law will soon come into force
THERE is a lingering assumption among Britons that their country stands for probity and fair play. Ask about it abroad, though, and you sometimes get a different reaction. Anti-corruption campaigners still bring up Tony Blair’s decision in 2006 to abandon an investigation into a ??43 billion ($70 billion) weapons deal with Saudi Arabia. Then there is the peculiar paucity of British “sanctions” imposed under an international bribery convention: two between 1999 and 2009, compared with 88 in America, 26 in Germany and 40 in Italy.
英国人一直自矜的认为他们的国家建立在正直和公正的基石上。然而国外的反应却不尽如此。反腐竞选人依旧利用Tony Blair2006年的决定拒绝调查与Saudi Arabia的一项43亿英镑（70亿美元）的军火交易。因此国际贿赂协议对英国的约束力就罕见的微弱，在1999年和2009年之间只有2项受到制裁，相较而言美国有88项，德国26项，意大利40项。
Stung by such talk, in 2008 the previous Labour government proposed a new law updating the country’s antiquated rules on backhanders and bungs, including those dispensed overseas. Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, now in government, backed the law in opposition. It reached the statute book in April last year; under it, miscreants risk big fines and up to ten years in prison. It was due to take effect in April this year, after the publication in January of guidelines on how to apply it. But, as the date approached, the Ministry of Justice said the implementation of the law had been postponed to allow the guidelines to be tweaked, following intense lobbying from business groups such as the Confederation of British Industry.
On March 30th the ministry said the law would finally come into effect on July 1st and issued a revised set of guidelines. These clarify some of the things that were worrying bosses. To the relief of football clubs, swanky nightclubs and Formula 1, taking clients on company-sponsored jollies seems unlikely to cause any problems. The question of how responsible British firms are for the misbehaviour of contractors in other countries has been clarified.
On the other hand, “facilitation payments”, a euphemistic term for the small bungs sometimes paid to foreign officials to expedite a legitimate service—a licence application, for instance—are discouraged. America’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, one of the inspirations for the new law, allows them.
Lawyers are still pondering precisely how much legal force these guidelines will have. One particularly thorny question is whether foreign firms that are listed on British stockmarkets but conduct little other business in the country will be covered. The government has offered no opinion; the question might one day make for a fascinating court case.