Nicola Sharp of business crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli explains the challenges facing the agency over its use of such agreements.

Transparency International UK and Spotlight on Corruption have written a joint letter to the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in the wake of the agency's settlement with Airbus.

In it, they urge SFO Director Lisa Osofsky to evaluate issues arising from the use of deferred prosecution agreements (DPA's) in the UK. A DPA was used to conclude the SFO's investigation into Airbus, with the aircraft manufacturer agreeing to pay 991M euros under it as part of a 3.6 billion euro global settlement that also involved French and US authorities.

The letter calls on the SFO to ensure greater consistency and fairness in how the DPA regime is applied. They also want the SFO to make sure that the regime provides a real deterrence to corporate criminality.

The organisations want the SFO to consider issues such as whether DPA's encourage self-reporting, the need to differentiate penalties for those that self-report and those that do not, the application of compensation principles and the transparency of the process. Learn more about Deferred Prosecution Agreements.

How the SFO decides to evaluate the issues raised by Transparency International UK and Spotlight on Corruption is yet to be seen. But one big problem for the SFO that certainly has not gone unnoticed is the inability of the agency to secure a conviction against any of the individuals of those companies that have been granted DPA's. This has to be an issue that the SFO takes into consideration - as well as those matters highlighted in the organisations' letter – when they weigh up whether to offer DPA's in the future.

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