Nicola Sharp of business crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli believes the former SFO head's thinking is in tune with the agency's current stance.
The former head of the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has said that discounts on fines of up to 75% would encourage more companies to self-report corruption.
David Green, who stepped down as SFO Director in April 2018, used the Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime to make the suggestion. He also defended the UK's deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) regime, whereby companies can avoid prosecution if they co-operate with the SFO and meet certain conditions.
DPAs have been criticised in the past 12 months as the SFO has failed to successfully prosecute individuals from Tesco, Rolls-Royce and Sarclad. Each company was granted a DPA after admitting wrongdoing and yet the SFO prosecutions of executives at Sarclad and Tesco failed and the agency dropped an investigation into former Rolls-Royce employees. Despite this, the former SFO Director insisted that DPAs were worthwhile and should be used in the future. He argued that the procedure allows companies to "draw a line" under issues and move on. Under the DPA regime, companies can be offered a discount of up to 50% on any fine they might have received if they report evidence of wrongdoing to the SFO. This figure is approximately the reduction in fine that a company could expect if it entered an early guilty plea to an offence in court.
Green believes that by offering a reduction on fines of between two-thirds and threequarters, firms would have a greater incentive to come forward and report wrongdoing.
While he is no longer the head of the SFO, his opinions certainly appear to fall in line with recent thinking at the agency. Only last month, the SFO published guidance to companies on corporate co-operation. In the guidance, the SFO stated that one consideration when deciding whether to charge a company would be co-operation.
The SFO is looking for corporates to provide assistance to it that goes above and beyond what the law requires. Possible discounts on fines are likely to be a huge factor when corporates are considering self-reporting wrongdoing. Arguably, the bigger the possible discount the more likely many companies will be to co-operate with the SFO.
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