Should I accept Olympic hospitality tickets?
How to avoid falling fall foul of the Bribery Act with corporate hospitality tickets for the Olympics
Q: I have been offered corporate hospitality tickets for the Olympics. Can I accept them?
A: The concern with accepting an offer of Olympics tickets is that you do not fall foul of the Bribery Act. Accepting gifts or hospitality will amount to a bribe under the Act if the underlying intention is that a function or activity, such as the decision as to whom a subsequent contract is awarded, will be performed improperly as a result.
However, to the relief of the corporate entertainment industry, the purpose of the Act is not to criminalise genuine, proportionate gifts and hospitality where they are an established part of doing business.
The first thing to do is to consider your organisation’s policy on gifts and hospitality (your organisation should have such a policy, as a company or partnership are at risk of committing an offence under the Act if an employee commits bribery and they fail to take steps to try to prevent it).
It may be necessary under the policy to get approval at a senior level to accept the tickets, particularly if the value of the gift is above a certain level, and it may also be necessary for the gift to be recorded in your organisation’s gifts and hospitality register.
In general the following matters should be considered:
- Will accepting the tickets improperly influence any business decision or impair your independence, or could it be perceived that this has happened?
- Why are the tickets being offered and by whom? Is there a genuine reason, for example, is it so that a client or other third party can get to know you better or to market their business?
- What is the value of the tickets, and is the value proportionate? Is it in accordance with customary levels of gifts and hospitality? The more expensive the tickets the more likely it could be perceived that the intention behind them is not genuine. Consider also the cumulative effect of gifts and hospitality. The tickets may not be expensive, but a number of small gifts could add up.
- Take account of the timing: could the offer of the tickets be linked to a particular decision or matter that is close in time or currently ongoing?
There has been a lot of hype and concern about the effect of the Bribery Act and it can be quite difficult to determine what falls on the wrong side of the line. If you have any concerns — for example, as to what might be expected of you in return for the tickets — then the safest thing would be to turn them down. Otherwise, if you follow your employer’s procedures you should be free to enjoy London 2012.
Disclaimer: This column is for general information only. It should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific legal advice relevant to particular circumstances. Neither BD nor the contributors’ employers accept any responsibility for the personal views expressed in this section.