Answer ... The Corruption Act is part of a suite of measures published by the Irish government in November 2017 aimed at enhancing corporate governance, increasing transparency and strengthening Ireland’s response to white collar crime. Other elements of the government’s package on the proposed reform on white collar crime include:
- establishing the Corporate Enforcement Authority, replacing the current Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE). The General Scheme of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2018 was published on 4 December 2018; under the proposed legislation, it is envisaged that the ODCE will take the form of a commission, as opposed to its current structure as an office within the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, with the intention that this will provide the organisation with more autonomy and flexibility in the investigation and prosecution of complex breaches of company law;
- piloting a Joint Agency Task Force within the Irish police force to tackle white collar crime; and
- drafting the Criminal Procedure Bill which, when enacted, is envisaged will streamline criminal procedures to enhance the efficiency of criminal trials.
In addition, in October 2018 the Irish Law Reform Commission issued a Report on Regulatory Powers and Corporate Offences. Among the recommendations were:
- that a properly resourced statutory Corporate Crime Agency be established;
- that economic regulators have the power to impose significant financial sanctions and make regulatory enforcement agreements, to include redress schemes; and
- a proposal for reform of fraud offences to address egregiously reckless risk taking.
While historically, therefore, there has been little in the way of investigating or enforcing instances of bribery and corruption in Ireland, given the increased government focus on white collar crime and the increased focus among regulators in relation to investigations and enforcement generally in Ireland, one anticipates that this is likely to change in the near term.