Comparative Guides

Welcome to Mondaq Comparative Guides - your comparative global Q&A guide.

Our Comparative Guides provide an overview of some of the key points of law and practice and allow you to compare regulatory environments and laws across multiple jurisdictions.

Start by selecting your Topic of interest below. Then choose your Regions and finally refine the exact Subjects you are seeking clarity on to view detailed analysis provided by our carefully selected internationally recognised experts.

4. Results: Answers
Anti-Corruption & Bribery
Can companies that voluntarily report anti-corruption violations or cooperate with investigations benefit from leniency in your jurisdiction?

Answer ... Companies can benefit from leniency in Australia if they make an early report of potential illegal corrupt conduct or the payment of bribes and offer to cooperate with investigators.

The benefit, however, is not in the form of any agreed resolution. Cooperation may, at one level, result in the prosecutor determining not to lay charges. If charges are laid, however, then the only benefit from cooperation, in practice, is to admit guilt, often accept a conviction and seek to mitigate the sentence to be imposed by the court. The determination of the sentence cannot, under Australian criminal law, be the subject of agreement between a company or an individual and the prosecutor. The determination of sentence lies entirely within the discretion of the sentencing judge. There are extensive statutory matters that a sentencing judge must take into account in determining a sentence “that is of a severity appropriate in all the circumstances of the offence”. An early plea can usually result in a substantial discount on sentence.

For more information about this answer please contact: Robert Wyld from Johnson Winter & Slattery
Can the existence of an anti-corruption compliance programme constitute a defence to charges of anti-corruption violations?

Answer ... In itself, the existence of an anti-corruption compliance programme does not constitute a defence to any bribery offence, whether a foreign bribery offence or a domestic bribery offence.

As noted above, the existence of a compliance programme may assist a company in satisfying the investigator (the Australian Federal Police) and prosecutor that the company had a culture of compliance, and that its compliance programme should be taken into account and be accorded significant weight in a determination of whether to prosecute, and if so, the extent to which any conviction and sentence is to be imposed.

For more information about this answer please contact: Robert Wyld from Johnson Winter & Slattery
What other defences are available to companies charged with anti-corruption violations?

Answer ... The two statutory defences to the foreign bribery offence are:

  • whether the conduct was justified by a written law of the foreign country where the conduct took place; or
  • whether the payment constituted a facilitation payment.

In defending any prosecution, a company, in order to assess whether corporate criminal liability should be attributed to it, must take into account the conduct of its directors, executors, managers and employees to determine the extent to which the threshold test for corporate criminal liability can be satisfied and, for example, whether an employee is a ‘high managerial agent’ of the company sufficient to attribute his or her conduct to the company.

For more information about this answer please contact: Robert Wyld from Johnson Winter & Slattery
Can companies negotiate a pre-trial settlement through plea bargaining, settlement agreements or similar?

Answer ... A company can seek to negotiate with the CDPP at an early stage with a view to seeking to persuade the CDPP not to prosecute or, if prosecuted, to agree to a resolution subject to the sentencing discretion of the court.

However, if a prosecution takes place, there is no statutory or other process to resolve the matter other than through the traditional forms of plea bargaining, rolled-up charges or reduced charges that might be agreed to with the CDPP. which then must be put to the sentencing judge to determine the appropriate sentence.

An accused can further seek to negotiate a resolution with the CDPP at any time (individuals often seek to avail themselves of this). The DPP Act grants the CDPP the power to offer levels of undertakings and/or immunities to a prospective accused person, subject to various conditions.

For more information about this answer please contact: Robert Wyld from Johnson Winter & Slattery
What penalties can be imposed for violations of the anti-corruption legislation? Can non-exhaustive penalties be imposed for such violations (eg, exclusion from public procurement, exclusion from entitlement to public benefits or aid, disqualification from the practice of certain commercial activities, judicial winding up)?

Answer ... For a foreign bribery offence committed after 1 July 2017, the maximum penalties that may be imposed upon a conviction, for each offence, include:

  • for an individual:
    • imprisonment of up to 10 years;
    • a fine of 10,000 penalty units (the value of one penalty unit is currently A$210, so the maximum fine is currently AU$2.1 million); or
    • both imprisonment and a fine; and
  • for a corporation, the greater of the following:
    • a fine up to 100,000 penalty units (A$21 million); or
    • if the court cannot determine the value of the benefit obtained directly or indirectly that is reasonably attributable to the offending conduct, three times the value of the benefit; or
    • if the court cannot determine the value of the benefit, then 10% of the annual turnover of the corporation during the 12-month period ending at the end of the month in which the conduct constituting the offence occurred (which is described in the legislation as the turnover period).

There are a range of penalties under state legislation and other commonwealth domestic bribery offences, from substantial fines to imprisonment for between five and 10 years for individuals.

In Australia, there is no regime whereby a company convicted or corruption offences is necessarily excluded from public procurement or other public benefits or aid work, or is disqualified from the practice of certain commercial activities.

If civil penalty proceedings are commenced by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission against directors or officers of a company alleging breach of their statutory duties (relying upon the underlying conduct constituting the alleged corruption or bribery), the court may, upon the declaration of offending conduct, in breach of statutory duty, make orders disqualifying such individuals from holding office and/or managing a corporation for a nominated period of time.

For more information about this answer please contact: Robert Wyld from Johnson Winter & Slattery
What is the statute of limitations to prosecute anti-corruption violations in your jurisdiction?

Answer ... There is no limitation period for the prosecution of anti-corruption offences, either domestically or outside Australia.

For more information about this answer please contact: Robert Wyld from Johnson Winter & Slattery
Anti-Corruption & Bribery