The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has entered into two new deferred prosecution agreement (DPAs), taking the total number entered into to 12 since the regime was introduced in 2014. The companies are yet to be named, but this represents the first time the SFO has entered into two DPAs arising out of a single investigation. The DPAs reportedly share a common Statement of Facts, though this is yet to be released publicly.
The DPAs are relatively small in value – imposing a combined total of £2,510,065 in fines and penalties on the companies in question. However, it is notable that the agreements impose far-reaching compliance measures on the subject companies, including a requirement to put in place a “comprehensive compliance programme” and be subject to an obligation to report regularly to the SFO on compliance matters for at least the next two years, being the initial lifetime of the agreements.
This matches a recent trend in DPAs and their associated judgments, emphasising the value of the remedial power of a DPA rather than their punitive impact or ability to levy high sums from companies. The SFO has even stated that in this case the DPAs have “compelled corporate offenders with UK operations to reform and become better corporate citizens”.
It remains to be seen who these companies are and what the specific underlying conduct was that gave rise this investigation and these DPAs, but the underlying charges relate to breaches of Section 1 and Section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010, the latter being the “failure to prevent” offence. This will no doubt be of interest to those involved in the ongoing debate around reforming corporate criminal liability in the UK. This also solidifies bribery as the standout offence that gives rise to DPAs.
As always, these DPAs only relate to the potential criminal liability of the companies in question. It remains to be seen whether any current or former employees will be prosecuted by the SFO and what the outcome of those prosecutions may be.