Tom Keighley

Member Article

Serious Fraud Office issue tougher corporate guidelines

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has issued new guidelines on bribery, self-reporting and corporate hospitality, hoping to reinvigorate its work against fraud and corruption.

The latest revisions to the SFO have been made to assure consistency across prosecuting bodies and to meet recommendations set out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Amongst the revised guidelines, the SFO confirm corporate hospitality is an “important part of doing business” but note bribes are sometimes disguised as legitimate expenditure. Elsewhere, the guidelines suggest that self reporting will be taken into account when deciding whether to prosecute a company.

Paul Huck, director of Zolfo Cooper’s Forensic and Litigation Support Services, said: “In changing their stance on these issues, the SFO has sent what they hope is a powerful message in a couple of key areas. Firstly, there is the anticipated introduction of deferred-prosecution agreements (DPAs). The consultation period for this ended in August and the results are expected shortly. DPAs allow the SFO to lay criminal charges against an organisation which has engaged in bribery and corruption, but defer them pending a period of company monitoring, payment of damages to victims, and potential confiscation of illegally earned profits. If the company re-offends in the period then the gloves are off. “The second is that it is a strategic move by the new director of the SFO, David Green, to impose a more aggressive stance by the SFO, which has had is critics in the past few years, against those involved in bribery and corruption, i.e. no more perceived ‘cosy’ chats and civil settlement. “Whatever the reasons, the SFO does appear to be taking a tougher, criminally focused, stance on those involved in bribery and corruption. All corporates and individuals (as they are personally at risk of prosecution too) should be aware of the wide ranging scope of the Bribery Act as it has been around since 2010, and in effect since 2011. In light of this shift, both corporate and employees should not presume that by self-reporting their involvement in bribery and corruption they will avoid criminal prosecution.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

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