On March 25, 2016, the Governor of Florida signed into law an anti-corruption bill, HB 7071, which allows prosecutors to bring charges more easily when they allege bribery, bid rigging and official misconduct. By amending portions of Chapter 838, Fla. Stats., the new anti-corruption bill expands accountability to the employees and officers of companies that pay bribes or offer rewards to any city, county or state official in exchange for a government contract or procuring government business. The amendments also loosen the standard of proof required to verify a violation of the anti-corruption law. Prosecutors now only need to prove a “knowingly and willful” violation, as opposed to demonstrating that a public officer had “corrupt intent” when receiving a payment or steering business to a particular contractor. The new changes to Florida’s anticorruption laws go into effect on October 1, 2016.
Perhaps most importantly, the new bill changes the definition of “official misconduct” (Fla. Stat. §838.022) such that private contractors, who have entered into contracts with the government, are now considered“public contractors”and therefore have the same liability as“public servants”under the new law. With this change, private businesses that enter into contracts with the government may very well be investigated for bribery, bid tampering and falsifying official documents.
The changes in the anti-corruption laws were initially brought about to close existing loopholes in the statute that had failed to address private entities performing public functions. As more services that were traditionally provided by the government became privatized, the Florida legislature deemed it necessary to eliminate these loopholes and cover private companies and their employees who were otherwise immune from prosecution, despite receiving bribes or falsifying official documents.