Lisa Osofsky, director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), delivered a speech yesterday at the Trace European Forum and made some very interesting comments directed at companies that might seek a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) in response to an SFO investigation.

In particular, Osofsky highlighted that:

  • DPAs would only be offered to companies that co-operate fully with the investigation - especially by being forthcoming with new information. She implored companies to "[t]ell us something we don't know"; and
  • companies must be able to demonstrate that they have undertaken reforms before they will be offered a DPA. It is clear that the SFO is not interested in agreeing DPAs with companies that Osofsky described as "recidivists".

There were also hints that the SFO might produce guidance in the future on how companies are expected to co-operate with the SFO. This would mark a useful change to its current policy.

Osofsky also indicated that SFO investigators will increasingly be required to have a good understanding of company compliance in order to better understand companies' obligations and evaluate any reforms they have undertaken. She referenced section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010 in particular.

This should serve as a reminder to companies of the importance of robust, well-supported compliance departments as a defence against crime and to help protect against potential sanction from the authorities.