Last week marked the 35th Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime, which brought together key players from the world of law enforcement.
Several key themes emerged from these speeches, which are highlighted in this post.
Expansion of corporate liability for economic crime
Readers will no doubt be aware of the government’s call for evidence on the case for expanding corporate liability for economic crime, which took place earlier this year.
Political support for reform of the law in this area has ebbed and flowed in the past year, and has sometimes been difficult to discern. It is therefore notable to see reference by the Solicitor-General to the ongoing nature of the exercise, and his confirmation that responses submitted as part of the call for evidence are currently being considered.
This dovetails with the Director’s remarks on why it is important for the UK to keep its foot on the pedal in relation to corporate crime and commercial bribery, lest others – most notably the US Department of Justice – fill the void. The Director poignantly references the well-known statistic that of the top 10 financial penalties exacted under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act since 2008, seven were against non-American companies.
The future of the SFO
Questions about the future of the SFO have long been a feature of the political landscape and it is interesting to note the Solicitor-General’s unusually overt endorsement of the SFO’s performance in his speech. This is all the more noteworthy, coming as it does against the backdrop of the Conservative manifesto proposing that the SFO be “incorporated” into the National Crime Agency and, as the Director notes, at a time when we are awaiting the government’s imminent proposals on whether to adjust the enforcement landscape to require closer coordination between the main players in economic crime enforcement.
Perhaps these comments are an indication that the clarity sought by many stakeholders as to the SFO’s future will soon be provided?
Liability of senior management
Corporate resolutions using the still new DPA regime have occupied many of the headlines recently. But the prosecution of individuals has always gone hand-in-hand with the enforcement of economic crime against corporates in the UK, and in his speech, the Solicitor-General acknowledges the multiple instances in which individuals have been held to account by the CPS and the SFO in recent times.
In a similar vein, the Director’s comments on the need for companies implicated in misconduct to radically overhaul compliance and remove the board on whose watch any such misconduct took place demonstrate the SFO’s focus on this feature of its work. In this respect, the Director makes a very clear statement that “[i]t should never be thought that a DPA with a company somehow lets culpable former senior management off the hook: far from it”.