The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combatting Foreign Bribery) Bill 2024 has passed – here’s why you need to care

Foreign bribery laws have changed. Penalties have increased significantly for both individuals and corporations who bribe foreign public officials. The government has also introduced a new corporate offence for failing to prevent foreign bribery. These reforms will start being enforced from the 8th of September 2024. 

A brief recap

The long-overdue Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combatting Foreign Bribery) Bill passed on the 29th of February 2024. With its implementation arrives new offences, guidelines and significant changes in how organisations in Australia can be penalised for committing acts of bribery. 

Our prior article described in detail, the context of bribery in Australia; its prevalence, the current countermeasures in effect, and ramifications for corporations caught in the act.  

Bribery is a rampant issue worldwide, permeating business, distorting market dynamics and eroding the rule of law. Understanding this, the Australian Government has taken significant steps to remove barriers to investigations and prosecutions. The CBF Bill is a framework developed meticulously for this reason; especially since its predecessors failed to eventuate.  

Being a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, Australia has an ongoing obligation to enforce effective measures that hold both individuals and corporations accountable for foreign bribery.  

How will the newly passed CFB Bill affect corporations? 

The current law provides that a corporation will not be held criminally responsible for bribery by its employees, agents or officers, if it can prove it has exercised due diligence to prevent the crime. This is no longer the case.  

Under the CFB Bill, a ‘failure to prevent bribery of a foreign public official’ offence has been introduced, meaning corporations are now faced with a serious degree of liability for the  behaviour of its people. 

Corporations can commit this offence if any associate, performing duties for or on behalf of the business, commits an act of bribery for the profit or gain of the organisation.  

The term “associate” is broad, and encapsulates stakeholders as far as:  

  • employees 
  • contractor agents 
  • subsidiaries or controlled entities of the corporation 
  • persons that perform services on behalf of the corporation. 

In addition to the broad categorisation, penalties under the new laws are hefty: 

  • fines of up to AUD$31.5 million  
  • three times the benefit received through misconduct  
  • 10% of the corporate group’s annual turnover. 
Prevention is the only means of safeguarding your business

Corporations can still commit a ‘failure to prevent bribery’ offence, regardless of whether or not they authorised or planned for an associate to engage in bribery. The only way for corporations to avoid being found guilty is to implement ‘adequate procedures’. These are clarified in guidelines published by the Attorney-General.  

It has never been more crucial to ensure your business’ associates are aware of the risks of committing any form of bribery – and for you to protect your business against this rampant malpractice.  

GRC Solutions’ Anti-Bribery and Corruption course has been updated to reflect the legislative changes included with the new Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combatting Foreign Bribery) Act 2024 (Cth).  

A dedicated module on overseas business activities provides updated guidance and information on Australia’s foreign bribery laws.  

To browse our Anti-Bribery and Corruption course and our broader commercial practices suite, click here.