Australian companies and their employees shouldn't think, based on recent press reports, that Australia doesn't already have serious anti-bribery and corruption laws.
Australia's anti-bribery and corruption laws apply both domestically and internationally with individuals and companies able to be prosecuted for various corruption related offences whether the offence occurred in Australia or overseas.
In fact, for an Australian to be prosecuted for something that occurs in a foreign country they need not have even left Australia.
The media reports are correct in stating that there have not been, to date, many successful prosecutions for corruption related offences. However, as the Australian Government continues to increase investment in this area of law enforcement, this is expected to change. Over the past two years the Government has increased funding to the AFP to improve their ability to investigate and prosecute particularly foreign corruption offences. Additionally, legislative reforms have made it easier to prosecute employees (and also the company) who prepare company accounts in a way that intentionally or recklessly seeks to conceal corrupt payments. For more information on the changes to the law on false accounting please see our recent update.
The proposed Senate investigation into the sufficiency's of the current legislative framework may also result in expanded powers for the AFP and other similar agencies.
We also expect that the number of prosecutions will increase as foreign regulatory bodies like the UK's Serious Fraud Office and the US Department of Justice seek to work more collaboratively with Australian agencies by sharing information about the conduct of Australian companies and individuals.
So while Australian authorities currently trail their UK and US counterparts in successful prosecutions to date, this is likely to change.
If you'd like more information about Australia's anti-bribery and corruption laws and ways in which DLA Piper can assist with setting your company up to ensure its compliance with those laws including on training and procedures for staff and how to respond should an issue arise, please feel free to get in touch with Jonathon Ellis or Rani John.