I’m sitting in a restaurant the other day, and hear the following conversation …
Banker One: “So what’s this Bribery Act thingamajig?”
Banker Two: “New Law. Came into force July 1st.” mnum, yum, mnum.
Banker One: “Yea, I know that”, mnum yum. “I meant what does it mean?”
Banker Two: glug, glug. “Can’t take a bung anymore.”
Banker One: “You do?” Mouth open, food visible.
Banker Two: “Not anymore ha,ha, ha”. Glug.
Banker One: “So what’s the basics on this?” Mnum.
Banker Two: “Well. Let me tell you …”
The pin-striped gel boy then went into a lengthy overview on the whole thing.
Rather than bore you with all the detail, it can be summarised as a new law that came into force in the UK on July 1st 2011.
The Bribery Act introduces a new corporate offence for, you guessed it, bribery.
A person is guilty of bribery “if he (or she) offers or gives a financial or other incentive to someone with the intention of getting that person or a third party to perform a function or activity improperly or as a reward for an improper act”.
He or she is also guilty if they know or believe that the offer or payment itself constitutes an improper performance of a relevant function or activity. There are four ways this might happen:
- “Active bribery”, where someone purposefully gives another person a financial or other advantage to induce them to perform their duty improperly;
- “Passive bribery” where you offer, request, receive or accept a bribe;
- Bribing a foreign government official in order to win or keep business for your company, or to gain a business advantage for your organisation; and
- An offence if you let someone commit one of the above offences on your or your company’s behalf.
This is old news, but I was amused by how the conversation between the two bankers proceeded.
Banker One: “So what about the Clubs?” mnum, yum, glug.
Banker Two: “No can do, no more.” Gnaw, gnaw, ribs.
Banker One: “Damn, I liked the girls.” Splutter, spit, chew.
Guess you get the idea of how they’re eating, so I’ll just recount the conversation as I heard it from here.
Banker Two: But it does make me wonder.
Banker One: Wonder what?
Banker Two: About the Clubs.
Banker One: We can still go.
Banker Two: Not those Clubs. I mean, are we bribing someone if we take them to see Chelsea?
Banker One: No way.
Banker Two: In Thailand?
Banker One: You did? Like the Hangover II?
Banker Two: Better! She did far more than ping pong.
Banker One: Get outta here. Tell me more …
I’ll leave that bit out, as it got a bit close to the edge, but the conversation remained in Asia.
Banker Two: But we’re gonna find it harder these days, aren’t we?
Banker One: ‘Cos of the banking crisis?
Banker Two: No, ‘cos of this stupid Bribery Act.
Banker One: How so?
Banker Two: well, my main action these days is in China, and you get nowhere in China without a bung here and there.
Banker One: Ah, but taking a bung might get you hung.
Banker Two: Only recently. For years, those guys got away with all sorts of stuff.
They then went into a list of their favourite Asian films, which was pretty juvenile. I almost wanted to step in when they were talking about which Lee was better: Christopher, Ang or Jet.
Of course, Ang is not an actor and Jet spells his surname differently, but that's another story.
The conversation finally ended up with further surreal chat …
Banker Two: What about Gaddafi?
Banker One: Yea. Shame.
Banker Two: Tyrant, I know.
Banker One: No. I meant losing his account.
Banker Two: You had it?
Banker One: We had it. He moved all the funds out to HSBC.
Banker Two: Told you Asia is where the action is.
Banker One: At least we’re still trading, unlike the Italian guys who partnered with him.
Banker Two: Whatever. Any idea where he is these days?
Banker One: What? The Italian?
Banker Two: No, Gaddafi. I heard the old lag had already jumped ship.
Banker One: You know he had a load of investments in London property …
At this point, a person extraordinarily similar in height and stature to Colonel Gaddafi walked past … it couldn’t be, could it?