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Enforcement Edge
December 1, 2021

“We Are an Agency That Is Willing and Able to Work With the Corporate World”: UK SFO Director Lays Out Agency’s Mindset and Priorities

Enforcement Edge: Shining Light on Government Enforcement

Lisa Osofsky, Director of the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO), spoke at the annual ACI FCPA Conference in Washington DC today, offering her thoughts on the agency’s outlook and priorities moving forward.

  • In contrast with some of her predecessors, Osofsky emphasized the SFO’s willingness to work with companies and her understanding of business realities from her time working for a global corporation. “We get it” and “we are an agency that is willing and able to work with the corporate world,” she said.
  • With that said, she has high expectations for companies and executives and emphasized the SFO’s “enthusiasm” for using some of its newer powers from the Criminal Justice Act of 2017 to detect and prosecute corporate crime.
  • Osofsky highlighted the SFO’s recent use of listed asset and account freezing orders to seize money and other property in connection with criminal investigations. She predicted an increase in cases in 2022 based on the SFO‘s full range of powers.
  • While understanding that global companies inevitably encounter compliance issues, Osofsky focused on whether the same company seems to be “accident prone” in the same way and whether a company is proactive in addressing issues when they arise.
  • Osofsky emphasized that companies that want to earn cooperation credit from the SFO should “tell us something that we do not know.” Companies may lose credit, she said, when they tell only half the story, interfere with access to witnesses, and fail to preserve evidence.  If a company decides to cooperate with the SFO and seek a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), the SFO will ultimately have to convince a judge that a DPA is appropriate. In Osofsky’s view, it is “better to work with us than to work against us.”

A common theme today from senior enforcement officials on both sides of the pond has been the importance of promptly and thoroughly addressing compliance issues when they arise. Decisions around how best to do so and whether it is in a company’s interest to involve regulators are increasingly complex given cooperation between global enforcement authorities and the long-term implications for a company and its board, executives, and shareholders.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to the authors or your trusted advisors at Arnold & Porter if you have questions when these matters arise.

© Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP 2021 All Rights Reserved. This blog post is intended to be a general summary of the law and does not constitute legal advice. You should consult with counsel to determine applicable legal requirements in a specific fact situation.