The Privy Council recently extended the availability of ‘tracing’ in a novel way to increase the options available to states seeking to recover stolen property.
Before this decision a state could only trace property that had been altered, say by sale or transfer, into the proceeds of that alteration if those proceeds did not exist prior to the move. The process of tracing required the state to show what had happened to the property and to identify its proceeds and their recipient. This formed the basis of a claim against the recipient of the proceeds on the basis that those proceeds represented the original property. There was no tracing claim where the proceeds were already in the hands of the recipient.
The Privy Council’s extension of this principle means that where there is a ‘coordinated scheme’, property can be traced into proceeds that were in the hands of the defendant before the property was altered.
This is an extremely useful tool for states that are subject to sophisticated corruption or frauds designed to thwart recovery. We consider the claim in more detail here.
This week’s tip-sheet concerns the remedies available to states where they are party to a contract procured through bribery. We discuss the pros and cons of rescission and termination as well as the reasons why a state may choose to re-negotiate contracts that have been affected by bribery. We also consider the risk of waiver that can occur when a decision to terminate or rescind is not taken quickly enough. Our tip-sheet is available here.
This tip-sheet gives a summary of proprietary claims. This type of claim arises where a state’s property has been stolen, or wrongfully transferred away, such as property sold below market value as a result of bribery. It is a claim for a specific asset or sum of money, which can be contrasted with a compensatory claim for damages. So, for example, a victim state can claim the return of a stolen asset, including any increase in its value, in priority to other creditors. We explain how and when this type of claim can be used and the advantages a proprietary claim has over a claim for compensation in our tip-sheet here.
Click through here for a quick summary of the key issues on the tort of bribery that states, and indeed any victim of bribery, should know. Our tip-sheet covers the basic legal principles, identifying available defendants, the circumstances when a claim can be brought and the facts that must be established to bring a successful claim. It also considers the available remedies and the impact on contractual relationships.
Following the successful launch of our asset recovery blog, we will be publishing a series of tip-sheets on the various types of civil claim that can be made to recover corrupt assets, or compensation for corruption, as well as on key procedural issues that matter in these cases. The tip-sheets are designed to provide an overview of the principal issues. Our self-imposed one page restriction means that we may have to leave some of the detail on the cutting room floor. Our longer briefings will discuss the issues in more detail, but please contact James Maton or Jamie Humphreys if you have any questions about any particular issue.
We will be publishing a new post every Wednesday. Please follow this blog, via the instructions at the top right of this page, if you would like them sent straight to your inbox.
Our first tip-sheet, on the tort of bribery, will follow shortly.
In our latest briefing, we consider the various civil claims and remedies available to states that are victims of bribery. The law of England, and the law of other common law jurisdictions, allow states to pursue claims not only against the bribe-payer and recipient, and but also against those who assisted in the bribery scheme. Those “assisters” are not confined to companies or other legal entities used to pay or receive bribes, or to launder their proceeds, but could extend to advisers such as lawyers and accountants, or to financial institutions. Depending on the type of claim deployed and the circumstances, a state can seek to recover the value of the bribe, the bribe itself or property acquired with it, or compensation for all of losses that have been suffered. There are also powers to rescind or terminate contracts with the wrongdoers.
The range of available claims and remedies inevitably creates complexity, and careful analysis of the facts is required to choose the right claim. Should a state terminate the contract and seek its losses for the other side’s breach or should it rescind the contract, putting each party back in the position they were in before the contract was agreed (less the bribe)? Where a bribe-taking public official has hidden his ill-gotten gains in inaccessible jurisdictions, are there any third parties who assisted his breach who would be susceptible for a claim? This note considers only the English position: there will be additional complexity, nuance and also opportunity if there are competing candidates for the applicable law.
Our briefing, “Civil claims for bribery”, appears here.
Companies are competing to win a contract. One pays a bribe to exclude its competitor from the bidding process, or to win the contract. If caught, it faces prosecution under the UK’s Bribery Act 2010, as do its bribing directors or employees. The bribing company also risks termination of its contract and claims from its customer.
But could it also be sued by its aggrieved competitor for compensation?
In England, and other common law countries, the answer is yes. And the available claims are not limited to wasted bidding expenditure. Lost profits can also be recovered.
The issue was tested in England in the recent case of Jalal Bezee Mejel Al-Gaood v Innospec Ltd. The defendant, Innospec, had previously admitted paying bribes in criminal proceedings in both the UK and the US. It had also settled a civil claim made against it by a manufacturer of competing chemicals in New York. The Claimant sued in England. It lost the case on the basis that it would not have won the contract in any event. But the case confirms that such a claim is viable. Our fuller briefing on the case appears here.