UK: An Overview Of The OECD's Phase 4 Report On The UK's Implementation Of The Anti-Bribery Convention

Last Updated: 26 April 2017
Article by Leila Gaafar

Part I: Detecting bribery

"The UK has made significant improvements to its ability to detect foreign bribery, but could still do more by reforming out-of-date legislation and better utilizing existing resources."

On 23 March 2017, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ("OECD") published the results of its Phase 4 review of the UK's implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (the "Convention"). The Report is drafted by representatives of the OECD's Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions ("WGB"), and focusses on three key areas: detection of bribery; enforcement of the Convention and anti-bribery laws; and corporate liability. This article considers the WGB's comments and conclusions on the first of these issues.

Background to the Phase 4 Report

The OECD's monitoring and enforcement of the Convention is a staged process, in which parties undergo a compulsory peer review system. The results of the review at each stage are then published, and a number of recommendations for improvement are made. The UK's last review—Phase 3—was conducted in March 2012, with a follow-up report on implementation of the Phase 3 recommendations published in 2014. The Phase 4 Report then assessed the UK's progress on key recommendations from its Phase 3 evaluation, and identified areas where further improvements could be made.

The scope of the WGB's review for Phase 4 was impressively comprehensive. During on-site visits to London in October 2016, WGB representatives met with members of the UK government, law enforcement authorities, the judiciary, the private sector (including business organisations, companies, banks, lawyers and auditors), representatives of UK Crown Dependencies ("CDs") and Overseas Territories ("OTs"), civil society (including NGOs), academia and the media. 

Self-reporting: moving in the right direction

The WGB takes a generally positive view of the effectiveness of self-reporting in the UK as a means of detecting bribery. As the Report points out, a large number of ongoing and concluded bribery cases in the UK have been triggered by corporate self-reports. In addition, incentives to self-report have increased since the WGB's Phase 3 report in 2012 with the introduction of deferred prosecution agreements ("DPAs") in the UK, since in order to achieve a DPA companies are generally required to have self-reported misconduct to law enforcement. However, the Report is somewhat critical of aspects of the UK's DPA regime. In particular, the Report points out that offering "generous" reductions in sentence to companies that do not self-report could potentially undermine the incentive for corporates to self-report in future. The Report also notes that in order to incentivise self-reporting, the threat of pro-active detection by the body responsible for enforcing corporate bribery—the Serious Fraud Office ("SFO")—must be a credible one. 

Whistleblowing regime: time for a re-think

The Report recognises that whistleblowing by individuals provides an important channel for bribery detection in the UK. It also recognises that in order to encourage the practice, whistleblowers must be offered a sufficient degree of legal protection. The legislative framework for whistleblower protection is currently contained in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA). Following discussions with UK NGOs, the Report suggests the protection currently afforded to whistleblowers by the PIDA may not go far enough, citing critics' concerns that "while PIDA may have been model legislation when it was passed in 1998, it would benefit from a major overhaul to take into account lessons learned from nearly 20 years of implementation". While the UK government has indicated it will consider reforms to legislation in this area, the Report concludes that there has been "limited progress on this front".

As well as ensuring robust legal protection for whistleblowers, the Report suggests that more could be done to raise public awareness of the value of whistleblower reports, and the protection available to those individuals. According to a 2015 survey of UK workers, 67% of respondents were unaware or believed that there was no whistleblowing protection available under UK law. Although this represents an improvement from the same survey conducted in 2012 as part of the Phase 3 review, in which this figure was 77%, the WGB recommends that more could be done to "[bolster] confidence of potential whistleblowers in the value of their report".

Anti-money laundering procedures: an untapped resource

Perhaps the most significant criticism made by the WGB related to the UK's capacity to detect bribery through its anti-money laundering ("AML") infrastructure. 

Currently, businesses in the UK regulated by the Money Laundering Regulations must file a suspicious activity report ("SAR") where there are reasonable grounds to know or suspect money laundering. According to the Report, the National Crime Agency's UK Financial Intelligence Unit ("UKFIU") received more than 380,000 SARs in 2014/2015, most of which were available to UK law enforcement agencies. However there does not appear to be any record of an SFO foreign bribery investigation being generated by information provided by the UKFIU. Given the often incomplete nature of information in SARs, and the UKFIU's limited powers of further investigation, this is perhaps not surprising, but nonetheless represents a "source of great concern" for the WGB.

The WGB recognises that these issues are, at least in part, being addressed by the UK government. In its April 2016 Action Plan for Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Finance, the government made a commitment to "upgrade the capabilities of the UK Financial Intelligence Unit"1. Proposed changes to the UKFIU's powers were then included in the Criminal Finances Bill in October 2016 which, if enacted, would allow the UKFIU to request additional information from reporting entities. For the WGB, this would be a welcome development. However, the Report emphasises that despite "increasing concerns about the effectiveness of the SARs regime" both from law enforcement and the private sector, the "[r]eform [of] the suspicious activity reports regime"2, promised in the UK government's April 2016 Action Plan has not yet materialised. The WGB therefore calls for further reforms of the UKFIU and the reporting regime generally, in order to improve detection of foreign bribery.

Increasing the use of other potential sources to detect bribery

Although most ongoing and concluded bribery investigations appear to originate from either whistleblower reports or corporate self-reports, the WGB highlights that other government agencies have a role to play in bribery detection, in particular the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ("FCO"), the UK's credit export agency UK Export Finance ("UKEF"), and tax authorities. While relevant information has been passed to enforcement authorities by both the FCO and UKEF, the Report expresses concern about the lack of detection capability within HMRC. This criticism is not a new one; as part of its Phase 3 review in 2012, the WGB recommended a review be conducted into HMRC's failure to detect and report foreign bribery. The Phase 4 Report reaffirms the need for such a review, and for effective cross-agency intelligence sharing between HMRC and enforcement bodies - in particular the SFO.

The Report is also critical of the lack of bribery cases originating from UK CDs and OTs, indicating inadequate detection capability and information sharing between these jurisdictions and the UK. In particular, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands have a significant role in the global financial services industry, and as such they "represent a great potential for detection". The WGB concludes that this potential has not been utilized by the UK government, although no specific recommendations are made on this point. 

Concluding thoughts

The WGB's view of the UK's bribery detection capabilities, particularly when contrasted to the Phase 3 Report in 2012, is broadly positive. However, there is a general theme at play in the Report: the information needed to detect bribery is, to a large extent, already out there, but the UK is not using its resources appropriately. The recommendations therefore focus on improving not just the quality of information detected and gathered by agencies and law enforcement, but also the procedures for subsequent cross-agency information sharing. 

1 Action Plan for Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Finance, April 2016, p. 11.
2 Ibid.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.