On 3 November 2022, the UK arm of commodities trading and resources company Glencore was sentenced in Southwark Crown Court to pay a total penalty of £281m, after pleading guilty in June to seven counts of bribery and failure to prevent bribery under the Bribery Act 2010 (UK).
The penalty, which is the largest sum a UK court has ever imposed against a company, comprises £93.5m of confiscated profits, a fine of £183m, and legal costs of £4.6m. It relates to bribes paid for preferential access to crude oil in Africa – part of a global, decade-long bribery scheme in respect of which Glencore has already been subjected to a US$700m penalty from the US Department of Justice and a US$40m penalty from the Brazilian Federal Prosecutor’s Office.
In the context of the UK case, while the Court gave some weight to the fact that Glencore had already been the subject of significant penalties in those other jurisdictions, the amount of the fines imposed reflected the fact that different entities were the subject of the offences in the UK compared to the other jurisdictions.
While record-breaking in its magnitude, the UK penalty could have been significantly larger had Glencore not engaged constructively with UK authorities in their investigation. In particular, the sentencing judge stated that without Glencore’s ‘extensive co-operation’ with authorities it would have faced a fine ‘at the very top’ of the possible range.
The decision is not only an instance of the cross-jurisdictional exposure companies face with respect to this kind of conduct, but also the importance of engaging co-operatively and proactively with regulators. Separately, the Court’s decision also emphasises the importance of implementing and enforcing anti-bribery and corruption measures. In this respect, the Court remarked that although Glencore had some anti-bribery and corruption policies in place, the company was unable to substantiate that those policies were, in reality, ever enforced or whether any importance was placed upon them.