The Cost of Bribery

Macmillan Publishers announced last Friday that they are to pay more than £11 million to the UK authorities, in order to avoid prosecution for having paid bribes to a World Bank Official and in compensation for profiting from other business dealings that may have been achieved by the payment of bribes.  They have already been debarred from providing materials for World Bank projects for a period of up to six years.  There is a certain irony in one of the most respected and highly principled publishers in the UK being taken to task about this, but that’s often how the cookie crumbles.

The substantial nature of the payment (even for a large multinational like Macmillan) will inevitably attract most of the interest but in situations like this it’s usually all the other stuff which puts the most strain on a businesses resources, and stifles potential new opportunities while senior employees are engaged in investigating and resolving the questions of who did what, and how could it be prevented from happening again.

At the risk of getting on a soap box, it’s much better to anticipate issues like this and take preventative action, rather than to have to react to events post hoc.  With the Bribery Act having now taken full effect, this is even truer than before: The alleged offences perpetrated by Macmillan employees were carried out under the previous legal regime and penalties could have been far worse under the new legislation.

Other Publishers might care to ponder the fact that, when the authorities discover issues with one company in a particular industry, they often want to have a look at other similar businesses operating in the same markets, on the basis that there is a distinct possibility that they may be operating in the same way.  Before I am inundated with Solicitors’ letters, I should make it clear that I’m not accusing anyone in particular of doing this, but the moral of the story is clear…….


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