SFO Director Says Organisation Is On ‘Upward Trajectory’

David Green Speaks At American Bar Association Conference

09.10.2013

The Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has told a conference in London that the organisation is on an “upward trajectory”, following changes to improve its effectiveness at investigating and prosecuting serious financial crime, fraud, bribery and corruption.

According to Reuters, David Green, who took up the role in April last year, told the American Bar Association conference this week that he is looking to “recharge” the SFO in its efforts to hold businesses to account.

The Director said the test for corporate criminal liability is too high and there should be a change. He said we should take our cue from section 7 of the Bribery Act, and have a corporate offence of a company failing to prevent fraud by its employees.  He said "if it is in the public interest for more corporate prosecutions, the test must be lowered."

Green added that with corporate prosecutions currently being “so difficult”, there may be little reason for companies to seek to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement.

DPAs come into force next year and will allow companies to be charged but have prosecution suspending if they agree to a fine or other sanctions.

The SFO published is draft code of practice for DPAs, which were introduced in the Crime and Courts Act 2013, at the end of June.

Expert Opinion
The introduction of DPAs is an interesting step which larger corporates will be watching closely and undoubtedly marks a new era in relation to the prosecution of corporate crime.

“Ultimately the aim is to ensure that economic crime is handled in a clear and transparent manner, with companies having more confidence in coming forward over concerns about criminal liability without the fear of lengthy and very costly contested prosecutions.

“Equally, there are many who think that corporates and those at the top of them should be held accountable for scandals caused by dishonesty, and the SFO would no doubt welcome the opportunity to prosecute corporates more frequently if a negligence based corporate criminal liability offence for failing to prevent fraud by employees was introduced by Parliament.

“Mr Green’s comments are interesting although it remains to be seen how many corporates ultimately enter into DPAs and whether the SFO secures enough Treasury funding to put the fear into corporates and their employees of being ultimately held to account if criminal conduct has taken place.”
Sarah Wallace, Partner