Proposals for a new criminal finance bill will, if implemented, hold company boards criminally responsible for offences such as money-laundering and false accounting committed by their employees. This is a move that is being heralded as a "crackdown on white-collar crime" and would align Britain more with the US' notoriously tough stance in relation to such crimes.
Currently companies are only responsible for failing to stop bribery. As evidence of misconduct has to be found at board level for a company to be found liable it has been easy for boards to distance themselves from their employees' actions, as evidence of board level misconduct is often elusive. However, if the proposals are implemented, boards could find themselves being prosecuted for failing to prevent economic crimes ̶ essentially they could be held liable for the actions of their employees.
The proposals are still very much in the formative stages and a consultation period is reported to be commencing shortly. However, if implemented, these proposals would signal a major change in corporate criminal law. Companies will need to think about how they can actively prevent economic crimes, what policies and procedures they will need to implement to assist in such prevention, and will need to make changes to any incentive schemes that could be seen to motivate employees to do the wrong thing.
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