On 6 December 2017 the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combatting
Corporate Crime) Bill 2017 (the bill) was introduced by the government in the
On 7 December 2017 the Senate referred the bill to the Legal and
Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee (the committee) for inquiry and
report by 20 April 2018.
In referring the bill to the committee, the Selection of Bills Committee noted
...issues of concern to relevant stakeholders require
opportunity for feedback [and that there is a] need to consider expert views on
impacts and possible improvements
The foreign bribery offence
Australia has been a committed party to the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD) Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign
Public Officials in International Business Transactions (the Anti-Bribery
Convention) since 1999. The Anti-Bribery Convention obliges State parties to
criminalise the bribery of foreign public officials and implement a range of
related measures to make this criminalisation effective.
Australia has given effect to these obligations through the foreign
bribery offence in section 70.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Criminal
Code), which carries significant penalties for individuals and companies.
Noting that the offence in its current form poses challenges for typical
cases of foreign bribery, on 4 April 2017, the Minister for Justice, the Hon.
Michael Keenan MP, released a public consultation paper on proposed
reforms to Australia's foreign bribery regime.
These reforms included possible new offences of recklessly bribing a foreign
public official and failure to prevent foreign bribery.
Submissions to the foreign bribery consultation closed in May 2017 and
the 16 submissions received are published.
In the main, the bill implements the amendments proposed in the
A deferred prosecution agreement scheme
At the same time, another key focus of the government's consideration
was the option of a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) scheme, which aims to
assist with enforcement of the foreign bribery offence, among other things.
Under a DPA scheme, where a company engages in a serious corporate
crime, prosecutors would have the option to invite the company to negotiate an
agreement to comply with a range of specified conditions. The terms of the DPA
would likely require the company to cooperate with any investigation, pay a
financial penalty, admit to agreed facts, and implement a program to improve
future compliance. A company would not be prosecuted in relation to the matters
outlined in the DPA where the company fulfils its obligations under the
On 31 March 2017, Minister Keenan released a public consultation paper
on a proposed model for a DPA scheme in Australia.
Submissions to the DPA scheme consultation closed in May 2017 and the
18 submissions received are published.
Notably, this consultation followed an initial discussion paper the
government had released on the concept of DPAs in March 2016, which was
endorsed by the majority of stakeholders.
In the main, the bill implements the DPA model as outlined in the
Senate Economics References
Committee inquiry into foreign bribery
On 24 June 2015, the Senate referred the matter of the measures
governing the activities of Australian corporations, entities, organisations,
individuals, government and related parties with respect to foreign bribery, to
the Economics References Committee for inquiry and report by
1 July 2016.
The inquiry lapsed following the double dissolution of the 44th
Parliament but was re-referred in the 45th Parliament with the same
terms of reference and a reporting date of 30 June 2017.
The committee was granted a number of extensions to report,
and on 28 March 2018 tabled its report—Foreign bribery.
The terms of reference to the inquiry, included:
...the effectiveness of, and any possible improvements to,
existing Commonwealth legislation governing foreign bribery, including: (vii) measures
to encourage self-reporting, including but not limited to, civil resolutions,
settlements, negotiations, plea bargains, enforceable undertakings and deferred
Much of the evidence received by the Senate Economics References
Committee as part of this inquiry in the 45th Parliament evaluated
the above proposals to reform Australia’s foreign bribery regime and for a DPA
The majority of the recommendations made in the Senate Economics
References Committee's Foreign bribery report support the reforms
proposed in the bill.
Purpose of the bill
The Explanatory Memorandum (EM) to the bill explains that the proposed
measures address the challenges associated with detecting and addressing
serious corporate crime in Australia. It states:
The opaque and sophisticated nature of serious corporate
crime can make it difficult to identify and relatively easy to conceal.
Investigations into corporate misconduct can be hampered by the need to process
large amounts of complex data and conduct lengthy negotiations over claims of
legal professional privilege. Evidence may be held overseas and therefore
require investigators to engage with mutual assistance processes. Court
proceedings can be long and expensive, particularly against well-resourced
The EM notes that the proposed amendments to the foreign bribery offence
are aimed at improving its effectiveness in addressing foreign bribery, and
removing undue impediments to a successful prosecution. It observes:
The offence in its current form poses challenges for typical
cases of foreign bribery, which may involve the use of third party agents or
intermediaries, instances of wilful blindness by senior management to
activities occurring within their companies and a lack of readily available
With respect to the introduction of a DPA scheme, the EM suggests that
this initiative is aimed at enhancing the accountability of Australian business
for serious corporate crime and supporting improved corporate culture. It
The DPA scheme is designed to address some of the challenges
in detecting and addressing serious corporate crime by encouraging corporations
self-report misconduct by offering greater certainty of outcome when compared
to litigation, and an opportunity to avoid some of the reputational and
financial costs associated with lengthy criminal investigations and trial
Overview of the bill
Improving Australia's efficiency in
addressing foreign bribery
Schedule 1 of the bill seeks to amend the offence of bribery of a
foreign public official in the Criminal Code to:
extend the definition of foreign public official to include a
candidate for office;
remove the requirement that the foreign official must be
influenced in the exercise of the official's duties;
replace the requirement that a benefit and business advantage
must be 'not legitimately due' with the concept of 'improperly influencing' a
foreign public official; and
extend the offence to cover bribery to obtain a personal
advantage; and create a new offence of failure of a body corporate to prevent foreign
bribery by an associate.
Schedule 1 of the bill also seeks to introduce a new offence into the
Criminal Code of failure of a body corporate to prevent foreign bribery by
an associate. Under the new offence, a body corporate would be liable where the
associate committed the bribery for the profit or gain of the body corporate.
However, the offence would not apply if the body corporate had in place
adequate procedures designed to prevent the commission of the foreign bribery
offence by its associates. The Attorney-General will publish guidance to assist
corporates to develop adequate procedures to prevent foreign bribery.
In addition, schedule 1 of the bill makes consequential amendments to
the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 to ensure the continuation of the
existing policy of prohibiting a person from claiming a deduction for a loss or
outgoing the person incurs that is a bribe to a foreign public official.
Enhancing corporate accountability
and encouraging self-reporting by companies
Schedule 2 of the bill seeks to amend the Director of Public
Prosecutions Act 1983 (DPP Act) to implement a Commonwealth DPA scheme
which will enable the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) to
invite a company (not an individual) that has engaged in serious corporate
crime to negotiate an agreement to comply with a range of specified conditions.
The offences of fraud, foreign bribery and money laundering could appropriately
be the subject of DPA offers.
Schedule 2 of the bill also makes consequential amendments to the tax
the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 and the Crimes
Financial implications of the proposed measures
The EM to the bill states that it is unlikely to have a significant
financial impact. However, with reference to the proposed DPA scheme in
schedule 2 of the bill, the EM notes that:
...parties to a DPA will typically be required to pay a
financial penalty to the Commonwealth under the terms of that DPA. This may
lead to the recovery of penalties in cases that might not have otherwise
proceeded to prosecution. Where appropriate, a party to a DPA may also be required
to compensate Commonwealth agencies for any costs associated with the
negotiation and administration of a DPA. Otherwise, costs incurred by
Commonwealth agencies as a result of the DPA process will be absorbed by these
The EM to the bill recognises that the measures in the bill engage the
human rights to: freedom from arbitrary detention; a fair and public hearing;
be presumed innocent; and privacy. However, the EM states that the bill is
compatible with human rights and:
[t]o the extent that it may limit those rights, the
limitations are reasonable, necessary and proportionate in light of the
objective of strengthening agencies’ ability to respond to serious corporate
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights considered the bills
in its Report 1 of 2018 and made no comment.
The bill was also considered by the Senate Standing Committee for the
Scrutiny of Bills.
Specifically, the committee sought information from the Attorney-General
regarding the appropriateness of:
the reversal of the evidential burden of proof;
including significant matters in non-statutory guidelines (that
is, guidance on the steps that a body corporate can take to prevent an
associate from bribing a foreign public official).
Conduct of the inquiry
advertised the inquiry on its website and wrote to relevant stakeholders and
interested parties inviting submissions by 7 February 2018. The committee
received 8 submissions, which are listed at Appendix 1.
Structure of this
consists of two chapters:
This chapter provides a brief background and overview of the
bill, as well as the administrative details of the inquiry.
Chapter 2 outlines the provisions of the bill in more detail, and
discusses the evidence received in this inquiry, as well as submissions made in
relation to the government's consultations on the amendments proposed in the
The committee thanks all individuals and organisations who assisted with
this inquiry, especially those that made submissions.
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