Bigger discounts for companies facing financial misconduct investigations should be made available if the accused is forthcoming, a serious fraud office official has said.
Ben Morgan, joint head of bribery and corruption at the SFO, told the Global Investigations Review’s annual conference in New York that the office ‘can see the force’ in the argument that a one third discount is not sufficiently attractive.
As it stands, a one third discount is the maximum amount handed out by courts to incentivise an early guilty plea in DPA cases.
However, in the UK’s second ever DPA, SFO v XYZ, a 50% discount was made available because of XYZ’s financial situation.
Morgan, speaking last Thursday, said it is clear that ‘in the right circumstances’ the court will support a deeper discount of up to 50% and may take into account other financial circumstances.
‘We welcome positive incentives for your clients to come forward,’ he added.
In SFO v XYZ, only the second ever DPA to be agreed in the UK, Lord Justice Leveson approved an agreement centring on bribery and corruption allegations against XYZ - it cannot be named because of continuing litigation concerning former employees.
Under the DPA, agreed in July, XYZ agreed to pay £6.5m.
Morgan said that if taken together with the other benefits of a DPA bigger discounts have the effect of more companies coming forward, which can ‘only be a good thing in the overall interests of justice’.
Earlier this month the Gazette reported that another SFO chief, Matthew Wagstaff, said that DPAs should be granted even in the most serious cases of financial misconduct so long as the perpetrator cooperates with the authorities.
A spokesperson for the attorney general said that whether a deferred prosecution agreement is accepted and on what terms is for the courts to decide.
He added: ’DPAs can bring in large sums of money for the taxpayer, while compelling companies to admit wrongdoing and to improve their standards and performance.
‘They can also potentially avoid long, costly trials and allow investigators and prosecutors to focus resources on those cases where a prosecution is required.’