Stephensons Solicitors LLP on the New Priorities of the Serious Fraud Office

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A leading UK law firm, Stephensons Solicitors LLP, publishes article on company blog on the Serious Fraud Office and its new priorities as laid out by the recently appointed Director.

Stephensons Solicitors

Stephensons Solicitors

The SFO had stated that companies which self reported corruption would face civil penalties and not criminal prosecutions, but this condition had been removed

As David Green CB QC approaches a year in his role as Director of the Serious Fraud Office, Stephensons Solicitors LLP has published an article via the firm’s official blog which reviews his aims and the new priorities of the SFO.

When appointed to the role Green was determined to resist the growing pressure to amalgamate the SFO with other prosecuting authorities, and early on he declared what the office’s new priorities were to be, but Rachel Adamson, fraud and regulatory partner at Stephensons Solicitors argues that these priorities sometimes seem contradictory.

According to the article, Green set out to re-examine the type of case that was taken on by the SFO, following the organisation’s embarrassment in their investigation of the Tchenguiz brothers; wherein a three year investigation was simply closed due to a lack of evidence (1). In addition to re-examining the type of case taken on, the new director intended to introduce new methods of investigation and new sources of intelligence. One of the methods that the organisation has moved away from is the dawn raids which drew plenty of publicity during the investigation of the Tchenguiz brothers. (2)

Another change is the withdrawal of earlier guidance on Bribery and Corruption. Previously, the SFO had stated that companies which self reported corruption would face civil penalties and not criminal prosecutions, but this condition had been removed. This could be Green’s attempt to rebrand the SFO as being prosecution orientated and not so willing to settle. Now the SFO will take self reporting into account, but ultimately each case will turn on its own facts. Civil penalties are still a possibility where a company is seen to be taking a proactive stance against corruption, but there is no guarantee, and companies will have to think long and hard before reporting.

So, companies won’t be given so much leeway for coming forward to report an incident, but in something of a contradiction, and American-style system of plea bargaining will be introduced. Deferred prosecution agreements could be in place as early as 2014, and would allow the voluntary reporting of a crime in exchange for deferred prosecution until stringent conditions have been complied with.

To read the entire Stephensons Solicitors LLP article and find out more about safeguarding your business from fraud, bribery and corruption investigations, visit the Stephensons website today.

http://www.stephensons.co.uk/

http://www.stephensons.co.uk/site/news_and_events/blogpost/Head_of_serious_fraud_office_vows_to_increase_prosecutions

http://www.stephensons.co.uk/site/news_and_events/blogpost/humiliating_judgment_for_the_SFO

(1) theguardian.com/law/2013/jul/26/tchenguiz-brothers-release-documents-sfo

(1) telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/10205173/Tchenguiz-brothers-win-key-victory-in-300m-legal-fight.html

(2) sfo.gov.uk/about-us/our-views/director's-speeches/speeches-2012/inaugural-fraud-lawyers'-association.aspx

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