UK: British construction company to pay £6.55m in connection with overseas bribery offenses, as the SFO asks UK corporates to self-report corruption issues

Last Updated: 29 September 2009
Article by Andrew Legg, Angela Hayes and Susan Rosser

Originally published September 25, 2009

Keywords: Overseas bribery offenses, SFO, corruption, Mabey & Johnson Ltd, illicit payments, criminal charges, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FCPA

Mabey & Johnson Ltd, a British company which manufactures bridge equipment, pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to a series of corruption offenses committed overseas and is to pay a total of £6.55m in connection with these offenses. On Friday September 25, 2009 the company was ordered by the court to pay £4.6m in fines and disgorgement of profits. In addition, the company has undertaken to pay reparations to the affected countries. It will also pay legal costs and the costs of an independent compliance monitor to ensure it has appropriate systems and controls in place going forward.

The company admitted that between 1994 and 2001 it bribed public officials over a bridge and road project in Ghana and another building contract in Jamaica. The company also admitted a separate charge of making €422,000 of illicit payments to Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime between 2001 and 2002.

The court stressed that the fact that the company had self-reported the problem to the SFO and then cooperated fully in the investigation was the biggest mitigating factor in assessing the level of fine to be imposed.

It is not yet known whether the SFO will bring criminal charges against individual former directors of the company, but today's court ruling does not preclude them from doing so.

This is the first prosecution by the SFO of a British company for overseas corruption. It should be seen in the context of the current drive by enforcement agencies, including the SFO, the City of London Police Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit and the Financial Services Authority, to be seen to be taking action against those who engage in bribery as a method of winning foreign contracts.

The SFO wants companies to self-report

The decision voluntarily to disclose the corruption offenses to the SFO was taken by the management of Mabey & Johnson's holding company in February 2008 whereupon an investigation was opened.

SFO Director Richard Alderman said, "These are serious offenses and it is significant that Mabey & Johnson has cooperated with us to get to this landmark point. This has enabled this case to be dealt with in just over a year and is a model for other companies who want to self report corruption and have it dealt with quickly and fairly by the SFO."

The SFO is looking to encourage corporates to self-report and has indicated that it will consider using only civil penalties, rather than bringing a criminal prosecution, where companies cooperate with its investigations, except where a company's senior management (such as members of the main Board of Directors) have been complicit in the corrupt activities. This is very much in line with the approach taken by enforcement agencies in the US in relation to breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act ("FCPA").

There is, however, no guarantee that a company which self-reports will avoid criminal charges being brought. Mr Alderman told the Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime at the end of August this year that "Early reporting should never be regarded by a corporate as a means of avoiding prosecution – we ourselves do not treat it as such. Early reporting allows us to consider at a preliminary stage the most appropriate course of action."

Mr Alderman also told the symposium that there are more civil recovery of property orders to come, following the Balfour Beatty case last year. Balfour Beatty self-reported to the SFO that it had inaccurate accounting records relating to irregular payments made by a subsidiary involved in a construction project in Egypt. The company agreed to a settlement payment of £2.25 million and external monitoring of its compliance systems for an agreed period.

Will proposed new legislation lead to more prosecutions of British companies?

The current outdated law on bribery in this country has made it difficult for successful prosecutions to be brought for corruption offenses, particularly against corporate wrongdoers. There has been increasing pressure, particularly from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ("OECD"), for the introduction of modern foreign bribery legislation in line with the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention which the UK ratified 10 years ago.

Following a report by the Law Commission published in November 2008, the Government published its draft Bribery Bill on March 25, 2009. It is expected that the Bill will be enacted next year.

The draft legislation contains a specific offense of bribing a foreign public official in order to obtain business contracts, and a new bribery offense, applicable to companies and limited liability partnerships registered in England and Wales, of negligently failing to prevent bribery by an employee or agent. Thus the Bill, if enacted in its current form, should make it significantly easier for enforcement agencies to bring prosecutions against UK corporate entities in respect of corruption offenses committed abroad.

Further, under the proposed legislation it would be possible to hold directors and senior managers individually liable if they consent to or connive at the commission of bribery offenses by their organizations.

In addition, other powers which can be used to tackle corporate corruption have been introduced in recent years, including the power to make Serious Crime Prevention Orders plus the imposition of an authorized third party to monitor a company's compliance with good business and ethical standards (as used in the Mabey & Johnson case), as well as powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to recover property obtained by unlawful conduct even where there has been no conviction for a specific criminal offense.

Mayer Brown has extensive experience in handling internal corporate investigations, including ones regarding possible violations of the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, and we are alert to issues of legal professional privilege, document retention, and electronic disclosure, all of which may be crucial in the event of any enforcement proceedings. We are familiar with the complexities of multinational investigations and have considerable experience in coordinating the work of foreign counsel in such investigations.

We also provide multi-jurisdictional anti-corruption compliance advice for our clients, including the development of training programs and written compliance procedures for employees. Please contact us for further information on the services we provide in this area.

To learn more about our FCPA capabilities, please visit our White Collar Defense & Compliance, Securities Enforcement & Investigations and Global Trade practices.

To obtain a copy of Mayer Brown's Pocket Guide to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, please email

Visit us at

Mayer Brown is a global legal services organization comprising legal practices that are separate entities ("Mayer Brown Practices"). The Mayer Brown Practices are: Mayer Brown LLP, a limited liability partnership established in the United States; Mayer Brown International LLP, a limited liability partnership incorporated in England and Wales; and JSM, a Hong Kong partnership, and its associated entities in Asia. The Mayer Brown Practices are known as Mayer Brown JSM in Asia.

This Mayer Brown article provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein.

Copyright 2008. Mayer Brown LLP, Mayer Brown International LLP, and/or JSM. All rights reserved.

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.