The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) should preserve the integrity of deferred prosecution agreement (DPAs) model, its soon-to-be departing director has said, arguing that it provides a ‘very clear offer’ to companies suspected of wrongdoing.
SFO director David Green said that under his tenure the office had shifted from having a reputation of being ‘anxious to do a deal’ to being able to make a ‘clear offer’ underpinned by legislation.
Green said that although he is not minded to give advice to his successor he hoped the option of a DPA, which can at times come with a discount of up to 50% on penalties, would be retained. ‘If you discover criminality and report it to the SFO it is likely to be favourably considered,’ Green said. He added: ‘It would be unfortunate if that offer is shortened or if the bar is lowered.’
So far, the SFO has secured DPAs with four companies.
Green, who was speaking at a breakfast question and answer session at the London office of international law firm Mayer Brown this morning, is due to depart at the end of next month.
His comments come at a time when the SFO is in talks with the Treasury about changing the way it is funded. The office has a basic annual budget of £31m but is to ask the Treasury for extra cash for ‘blockbuster’ cases.
Barry Vitou, head of global corporate crime at international firm Pinsent Masons, commented: ‘What the SFO now needs as it faces the challenges of the next few years is to be given the funding to allow it to build on the legacy and success of David Green.’
Vitou said the SFO has been a major generator of funds for the Treasury – contributing an average of more than £110m a year over the past four years while operating on a reducing budget.