SFO Gets First DPA Approved In Case With Standard Bank

Specialist Lawyer Says Process Can Be ‘Sensible Alternative’ To Risk Of Corporate Prosecution


London-based ICBC Standard Bank Plc has had its Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) approved today in the Royal Courts of Justice.

The landmark case relates to Standard Bank Plc, now  known as ICBC Standard Bank Plc, which was subject to an indictment alleging failure to prevent bribery contrary to section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010.

The case is significant as it is the first use of section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010 by any prosecutor and the first time the new DPA law has been used in the UK.

A DPA is a court-approved deal under which a company is charged with wrongdoing but legal proceedings are suspended in return for accepting a range of sanctions that can include a fine, payment of compensation and monitoring.

As a result of the DPA, Standard Bank will pay financial orders of US$25.2 million and will be required to pay the Government of Tanzania a further US$7 million in compensation.

Standard Bank has agreed to continue to cooperate fully with the SFO and to be subject to an independent review of its existing anti-bribery and corruption controls, policies and procedures regarding compliance with the Bribery Act 2010.

Introduced in February last year, the agreements are regularly used in the US. Although they must be approved by a senior judge, they have come in for criticism for potentially allowing corrupt companies to pay their way out of the prospect of prosecution.

Expert Opinion
“This is the new era of large corporate fines for corporate crime imposed through DPAs. Providing businesses engage early with the SFO , don’t wait until the SFO ‘find out’ and are sensible with their own internal investigations and the provision of evidence, then a deferred prosecution agreement may be a sensible alternative to the risk of corporate prosecution by the SFO and all the damage that entails.

“I suspect that businesses may be encouraged to have a much more open dialogue with the SFO if they fear that a ‘cover up’ may risk greater damage to shareholders, employees and reputations which can occur with a criminal prosecution. However, certain individuals who may be employees or senior managers or even board directors will be at greater risk of prosecution if a company self reports to the SFO.”
Sarah Wallace, Partner

Commenting on the DPA, Director of the SFO David Green CB QC said: "This landmark DPA will serve as a template for future agreements. The judgment from Lord Justice Leveson provides very helpful guidance to those advising corporates. It also endorses the SFO's contention that the DPA in this case was in the interests of justice and its terms fair, reasonable and proportionate. I applaud Standard Bank for their frankness with the SFO and their prompt and early engagement with us."