Registration is now open for the Iron Mountain Breakfast Seminar on Electronic Disclosure and the new UK Bribery Act which takes place on Tuesday 8 March at 8.30am at Altitude 360, Millbank Tower, London. The registration form is here.
The Bribery Act part is given by Barry Vitou of Pinsent Masons and thebriberyact.com and is called What every business needs to know about the new UK Bribery Law. The precise details continue to be the subject of speculation as the government reconsiders both the act itself and the guidance notes which are to accompany it. It seems unlikely that there will be changes of any substance to the act, but the guidance notes are rumoured to have had a major overhaul.
thebriberyact.com is a constantly updated source of information about this. You might also like to read an article in the Telegraph headed Government relaxes Bribery Act which, however authoritative its alleged source, much be treated as speculative until the government finally goes to press. Much of the concern about the act has focused on corporate hospitality with fears – exaggerated fears, I think – that the SFO will be touching the collars of anyone who gives or accepts routine entertainment in relevant circumstances. The most extreme example of irrational fears to have come to attention is a bowls club which has forbidden gratuities to a groundsman with the implication, presumably, that the grass will be rolled and cut in a particularly favourable way for those who hand out the biggest tips. Common sense is needed here, and Barry Vitou is the man to give it – see, for example, the Q&A here, which covers hospitality, and the report of an interview with SFO Director Richard Alderman headed Prosecuting overseas corporates will be a top priority for the SFO. My own article of a few days ago includes links to some other articles which you may care to read. I also recommend an article by Neil Cameron called Ruminations: The Bribery Act 2011 and Legal IT: Let’s Lunch! which pours the cold water of reality on the flames of irrational fear.
None of this implies that the wider effect of the Bribery Act is to be taken at all lightly. As I said in my article, lawyers and their clients should use the brief deferral of the act’s implementation to make sure that their systems and procedures are fit for purpose.
Whether a company has “adequate procedures” applies in other matters as well. Those required to give electronic disclosure of documents for civil litigation or for regulatory investigations, and those who advise them, must also be alert to other developments. My talk is called Electronic Disclosure begins at the client (and it’s not just for litigation), and takes as its theme that companies whose electronic information is not well organised will find it at the least expensive and at worst impossible to comply with disclosure obligations.
Since 1 October 2010 the Edisclosure Practice Direction 31B firmed up the existing obligation on parties to exchange information about their clients’ systems and sources of data, providing a Questionnaire for completion in appropriate cases. In practice, the Questionnaire is likely to apply in relatively few cases, but lawyers are finding that the structured format of the Questionnaire is useful in a wider range of cases than the PD envisages. It is a convenient aide memoire also for those who find the regulator at their door demanding not just documents but information about the management of those documents. The SFO is, of course, not a regulator, but a prosecuting authority, which should inspire some action on the part of those who foresee (or who should foresee) a risk of implication in bribery.
My aim, as always, is to draw attention to the benefits of this approach as well as to the risks of doing nothing.
The seminar will finish at 10.30 so will not cut too much into the day – and you get breakfast as well as pearls of wisdom. Registration is required chiefly to allow for breakfast numbers to be calculated. I am told that there has been a good take-up to the initial round of invitations, so book your place now.