News & what's on - Written by on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 11:41 - 0 Comments

30th International Symposium on Economic Crime: University of Cambridge: Attorney General speech

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In a Keynote speech on the first day, the UK Attorney General, Dominic Grieve gave insight into the evolution of the investigation and prosecution of economic crime in the UK and emphasised the importance of the task.

Speaking about Deferred Prosecution Agreements – he described them in terms of bespoke arrangements for a system in England and Wales with far more judicial oversight than the US equivalent.

Contrary to some commentators we regard additional judicial oversight as a good thing.

Mr. Grieve emphasized that Deferred Prosecution Agreements are not a substitute for investigation and prosecution.  Instead it will be an additional weapon in a prosecutors armoury to pursue alternative outcomes in certain cases.

Allaying concerns of some the Attorney General highlighted that civil settlements would still be available where appropriate.

However, it remains to be seen in what context.  It is fair to say that Civil Settlements appear to have been used in the absence of a Deferred Prosecution regime in some instances and some have questioned the extent to which they will be available in a DPA world asking, for example, if their use will be curtailed.

The Attorney General highlighted that the DPA regime will not take prosecutions off the table and emphasised that the UK
 will prosecute where appropriate – namely where there is realistic prospect of conviction and where it is in the public interest.

This represents a significant difference between the UK and the US where a full blown prosecution of a corporate is a largely theoretical possibility.

Corporates beware.

In an endorsement of the new SFO Director, David Green’s changes, Mr. Grieve said he is pleased with SFO focus on most serious and complex cases commeting that new quality control process will ensure SFOs place in the regulatory landscape.

This confirms what we have heard from a variety of sources.

There is no longer talk of closing the agency in Whitehall and the future of the SFO is no longer in question.  Quite the opposite, the agency has received a renewed focus and importance politically against a back drop of the LIBOR investigation and other investigations of significance to the City.

The former Director of the SFO, Richard Alderman’s work in the last two years of his tenure should not be underestimated.  Without it the SFO might simply not exist today.

Instead, the SFO is here to stay.

In other news, the Attorney General also spoke of the Financial Services Authority and Office of Fair Trading in tackling economic crime.

The National Crime Agency will be established by Crime and Courts Bill and government aims for it to be fully operational by December 2013.

Referencing another theme of the new SFO Director, the Attorney General referred to a push on better cooperation domestically and internationally.  While from the outside there is an assumption that government and law enforcement is joined up to fight a common goal in reality this is not so and sadly there are turf wars.

In summary this was a comprehensive speech which highlighted the significant advances the Coalition Government is making in the context of economic crime. While talk is cheap, more than at any time in our recent history against a backdrop of financial scandals, politicians have an incentive to push the agenda on fighting economic crime.

[With thanks to Anne-Marie Ottaway in preparing this piece]

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