Bribery Act & Proceeds of Crime - Written by on Friday, March 22, 2013 1:32 - 0 Comments

(Contrarian) Opinion: Corporate crime in the UK. A shift in public perception?

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Notwithstanding the barrage of criticism which has been meted out to the SFO in recent months it appears the perception of the public in general may be changing about it, and the UK’s approach to dealing with corporate crime.

At the weekend we were struck by comments made by some people we met while we were out and about.

Namely, that they perceived that UK law enforcement was ratcheting up the focus on corporate crime and corporate investigations.

We were surprised.

What about the recent criticism of the SFO we asked.

The response: Yes, but.

They were more interested in the frequent news stories around SFO investigations into Barclays, LIBOR, EADS, Rolls Royce, Weavering Hedge Fund, the list goes on, ongoing FSA investigation and enforcement stories and other international investigations, for example, the recent Indian and Italian investigation into Agusta Westland helicopters which has a UK angle.

A parliamentary question on Monday this week (18th March) see below indicates that in spite of some of recent criticisms the government is supportive of the SFO and in particular its direction of travel under the new Director, David Green CB QC, and that there are frequent update meetings.

Question:

Lord Morris of Aberavon (Labour)

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government how their supervision of the Serious Fraud Office is exercised; how many meetings have taken place between the Attorney-General and the director of the Serious Fraud Office since May 2010; and what assessment they have made of the performance of the Serious Fraud Office.”

Answer:

(Advocate General for Scotland; Liberal Democrat)

“The Law Officers may be informed or consulted via regular briefings from the director of the Serious Fraud Office (DSFO) about matters of prosecution policy, practice or law; and individual cases of particular sensitivity or difficulty. The Attorney-General meets the DSFO both for routine meetings and as matters arise and has done so 43 times since May 2010. HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate’s report on the SFO’s casework handling in November 2012 found that the SFO does many things well and that the direction in which the SFO is now headed under its new director is the right one. However, the Attorney-General and the DSFO of course continue to keep the performance of the SFO under review.”

So, while commentators may be fixated on SFO criticisms (which largely relate to historic problems) it appears that Joe Public is more interested on what is happening now.

Very sensible.

In the meantime, the government is supportive.

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.  But this is not a bad state of affairs as the new Director of the SFO comes up to his first anniversary.

And, while it may not be politik to say it, (but then we like to be visionary contrarians like others we can think of…), perhaps criticism of the SFO today for historic conduct is just a bit harsh and opportunistic?  Perish the thought….

 

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