The UK is under pressure to get its act together on fraud and anti-competitive practices, David Liddell, a forensic partner at the Birmingham office of PKF Accountants and business advisers has warned.
And that means companies will need to be extra vigilant in ensuring they stay on the right side of the law because it is all too easy, even inadvertently, to slip up.
Mr Liddell said: “Construction and pharmaceutical companies have been accused of price fixing; defence companies have been investigated for bribery; oil companies have faced charges of sanction busting.
“Anti-competitive practices, including bribery and corruption, can be found in all sectors of the economy, in any part of the world. And thanks to improved organisation and funding, combined with significant political support, the anti-corruption drive in the UK has new direction and focus – particularly with the coming re-launch of the Serious Fraud Office this April.”
He went on: “Businesses need to ensure they have assessed the risk and have procedures in place to investigate, and defend, their own practices.
“Businesses expect to compete against one another – for contracts, for resources from suppliers, for employees. However, practices which were once regarded as normal and an accepted part of doing business – particularly in certain industries and in certain jurisdictions – are increasingly being found to be unlawful.
“These once ‘standard’ practices may now carry severe criminal sanctions for both businesses and individuals.” Mr Liddell said the new push by the authorities had been sparked by criticism of the UK in 2006 from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for failing to bring a single prosecution under the 2001 Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act.
The Government responded and additional funding was committed to investigating anticompetitive practices, with the Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit (OACU) of the City of London police being established to work closely with the Serious Fraud Office.
However, the OECD was still not satisfied and last April announced a probe into the UK’s supposed failure to comply with international anti-corruption and bribery protocols.