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Serious Fraud Office boss warns big names to play ball – or else

As an inquiry into Barclays goes on, SFO chief David Green says that firms which do not cooperate with him will not be able to benefit from new settlement deals

David Green, the director of the Serious Fraud Office, has warned that British businesses should not consider deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) the “new normal” if they are caught misbehaving.

Green was speaking to the Observer after Tesco and the SFO announced they had reached a DPA over the accounting scandal that rocked Britain’s biggest retailer in 2014. The settlement includes a fine of £129m to be paid by Tesco.

DPAs allow companies to settle with the SFO without facing criminal prosecution. The companies must agree to specified conditions, which can include a fine and their conduct being monitored for a set period.

Used in the US for some time now, DPAs were introduced in the UK only three years ago. The Tesco case is the fourth time the SFO has used its new power: it previously reached settlements with Standard Bank, Rolls-Royce and a third company that cannot be named for legal reasons. The Tesco deal still needs high court approval: a hearing is scheduled for 10 April.

Getting such well-known British companies to pay huge fines could be construed as a major victory for the SFO, which suffered a setback last year, after City brokers were found not guilty of helping Tom Hayes rig Libor interest rates. Rolls agreed to pay £671m to the SFO and the US Department of Justice over allegations that it bribed middle men around the world between 1989 and 2013.

However, Green is keen to clarify that DPAs are not the only route that the SFO will take when investigating companies. This is are significant because the fraud-busting agency is still investigating alleged wrongdoing at several other huge companies, including Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline and Airbus, maker of the A380 superjumbo.

More details here

Source: The Guardian

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