A former lawyer for the FBI has been appointed as the new head of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). In a statement today, the Attorney General’s Office said Lisa Osofsky will take over the reins from interim director Mark Thompson. Thompson took over from David Green last month.
Osofsky will not take up the role until 3 September. She said: ‘I am honoured to be the next director of the SFO. I look forward to building on the SFO’s successful record in the fight against economic crime and leading an emboldened SFO to even greater heights.’
Thompson said Osofsky has had a distinguished international career focussing on financial crime in both law enforcement and private sector roles.
Osofsky joins from financial crime, risk and compliance company Exiger, where she was a managing director. She was also formerly deputy general counsel at the FBI. She is also a UK registered barrister having been called to the bar in 1997.
Thompson will return to his permanent role as chief operating officer after 3 September.
Christopher David, counsel in the UK investigations & criminal litigation practice at international firm WilmerHale, said the appointment was an interesting and – ‘judging by the wealth of speculative commentary’– somewhat controversial choice.
‘Top of her agenda will be to determine exactly where the SFO fits once the National Economic Crime Centre is established,’ David said. He added that Osofsky’s support for Theresa May’s long-held ambition to merge the agency into the National Crime Agency, not to mention her previous experience at the FBI, ‘does not augur well for the SFO’s independence’.
Elly Proudlock, counsel at Linklaters, said Osofsky would bring her US experience to the role.
‘She is likely to want to reduce the time it takes to get cases resolved, and possibly to increase the discounts offered in the context of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA). We may also see greater use being made of the SFO’s powers to offer leniency to individuals in exchange for assistance.’ She warned however, that any change would have to be consistent with the UK’s greater judicial scrutiny of DPAs.
Proudlock added: ‘I don’t think Osofsky’s historic comments about the NCA should be taken as an indication of her likely approach once in office. She will undoubtedly want to work closely with other agencies here and overseas, but there is no suggestion that she is on a mission to subsume the SFO within the NCA.’
Robert Amaee, partner at international firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, said: ‘Her plate will be pretty full from day one, getting to grips with the heavy case load under investigation and in court, and keeping the Deferred Prosecution Agreement train on track.
Amaee, former head of anti-corruption at the SFO, said he expects Osofsky to steer the SFO to be ‘ever more aggressive’ in targeting proceeds of crime and suspected money launderers by tapping into the government’s apparent commitment to deal with what it sees as illicit money in the UK, including making use of new unexplained wealth orders.
Exiger executive chairman Mike Cherkasky, said: ’I am so pleased for Lisa on her appointment to the SFO and know that she will prove to be a great asset to the UK criminal justice system.’