SFO doubling Libor investigation team
‘Significant developments’ in the Libor investigation are expected over the next few months, the director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) indicated last night.
Addressing the inaugural meeting of the Fraud Lawyers Association (FLA), David Green (pictured) said the SFO is doubling the team working on the investigation into the alleged manipulation of the inter-bank lending rate, from 30 to 60.
Green declined to go into detail about the investigation, but said there will be ‘significant developments’ over the coming months. He added that the SFO’s priority would be to deal with alleged wrongdoing committed by British nationals at British banks in Britain.
He said the Treasury had agreed to ringfence additional funding in relation to the Libor case, and said that further additional funding would be available in other big cases. ‘Where I feel funding is insufficient, I will raise it with the attorney general,’ he said. ‘On my watch the SFO will never refuse to take on a case simply on grounds of cost,’ he said.
Green took over the helm of the 25-year-old SFO last April. In the 11 months since he has been in charge, he said the organisation had refocused and is getting back to prosecuting.
He said the role of the SFO had become blurred, giving rise to the presumption that it had ‘dumbed down’ to reduce risk and that it ‘didn’t have the stomach’ for prosecutions, and would instead seek civil settlements.
He added that civil settlements are ‘still alive and well’ in the right circumstances and that in cases of genuine self-reporting, the fact of the self-reporting would ‘weigh heavily’ in the public interest test against prosecution.
Green said that the organisation currently has 65 cases on its books – 23 criminal investigations, 14 post-charge, 13 post-trial and 15 that are under development in the intelligence section.
Questioned about deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs), Green said he welcomed them, although he had some concerns about them. He did not elaborate, save to question ‘to what level would you have to investigate for a DPA?’.
Green said that the new measures, introduced in the UK at the end of last year, would ‘take a while to bed down’.
‘They are not a panacea; they are just another tool in the prosecutorial armory to deal with cases which otherwise might not get dealt with,’ he said.
‘We will have to see how they work’ he said and added ‘prosecution is what we are there for’.
Green indicated that he would like to see the test of failure to prevent bribery, used in the Bribery Act to establish corporate criminal liability, extended to other corporate fraud offences.
The FLA chair, Kingsley Napley’s Louise Hodges, said: 'An issue is whether by trying to change the test, you downgrade the criminal liability to a level where negligence by a company becomes a criminal offence.
'The crux of the debate will be whether making that change is going beyond what the legislation should do.'