Bribes or Good Business?

A cool £half million for 45 minutes work isn’t bad in anybody’s book, I reckon – that’s what Janet Jackson got paid for performing at a recent ‘gig’ hosted by Deutsche Bank… and, apparently, she wasn’t even first choice in the entertainment stakes.

It was at a 5 star golfing hotel in Hertfordshire where 300 of the bank’s clients were treated to, well let’s say a two-day extravaganza, the likes of which few banks’ clients are likely to see. And the figure of 300 enjoying Deutche’s hospitality was the same number as the British jobs the same bank shed at the (so far) height of the financial crisis.

Sour grapes?

Maybe ;-)… but, on the other hand we now, as of 1st July 2011, have a Bribery Act in the UK – the Bribery Act 2010 (don’t ask: I don’t know the answer…). If you’ve ever taken a client or prospective client out for lunch/ to the races/ on the town in the hopes of securing a particular piece of business, a contract or a vote that would ‘go your way’ on their Board of Directors, for example, and you got the result you wanted, have you ever thought that your actions could be perceived as bribery? :-(

Bluefin had a precis on this Act, from which I’ve nabbed:

“The new Bribery Act will transform the way employers entertain their clients and businesses will need to ensure the correct procedures are in place to ensure well-meaning gifts are not interpreted as bribes. Employers also need to be aware that failing to prevent a bribe is an offence, so it is essential that everyone in the organisation understands the legislation, as it will be you, the employer, standing in the dock if the law is breached, and offences are punishable by up to ten years imprisonment,”

“The new Act introduces four new bribery offences which include making a bribe, accepting a bribe, bribing a foreign public official, and failing to prevent a bribe.”

Cripes! We’ve all been warned then, haven’t we? Type in “entertain or bribe?” into Google and you’ll find a few more articles on the subject and the Bluefin one quoted here has 10 Tips on how to prepare for the Act. But, frankly, they seem a bit Draconian to me for the average small business – unless you know you’re on a bit of a sticky wicket…

A couple of areas where it seems we need to be careful to ensure that we’re extra specially squeaky clean seem to be Public sector and Overseas contracts.

Here’s a corker of an extract from an article on Swan Turton‘s site:

Facilitation payments

Unlike the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes an exception for small bribes (known as “facilitation payments”) to be paid to officials to speed up government processes, the Act makes no such exception and any payments for that purpose, no matter how big or small or whether accepted under local custom, will be an offence.”

Taking this a step further: How about politicians?

What will be allowable now?

Could you (still) wine and dine a local MP, maybe offer him and his family the use of your house…. (in whatever country) for a couple of weeks’ sunshine in the hopes that your company will get planning permission to…/ the contract for…/ and so on?

Or can a bunch of businesses to get together to persuade local government (with quiet incentives…) that a planned motorway should take a certain specific route…

In short: Is this last of dodgy dealings and MPs with growing waistlines or is it Business As Usual?

What do you think?

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