Yesterday (17th January) the Serious Fraud Office secured the largest corporate crime fine ever in the UK through a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with Rolls-Royce. Rolls-Royce agreed through the DPA to pay over £500 million to defer a prosecution in relation to corruption and false accounting spanning 3 decades and 7 jurisdictions, relating to the sale of aero engines and energy systems.
On the face of it this development might appear to send a message to other businesses to beware of the SFOs teeth. Following DPAs with Standard Bank in 2015, and XYZ plc in 2016, yesterday's DPA with Rolls-Royce could be seen as part of a developing pattern of more aggressive anti-corruption enforcement.
However, Tony Lewis, head of Fraud and Corporate Crime at European law firm Fieldfisher,expressed concern at a potential unintended consequence of the DPA. He said: "It is clear from the Judgment of the Rt Hon. Sir Brian Leveson QC, and the Statement of Facts, that Rolls-Royce did not self report. Rather, the SFO came knocking, and Rolls-Royce responded cooperatively. This cooperation, which the Court and the SFO considered 'extraordinary', unlocked a DPA, and also an additional discount, in circumstances where objectively the agreed offending was at the egregious end of the scale.
"The unintended consequence of this DPA may sound the death knell for self-reporting as businesses take the view that the full rewards of a DPA may be available to them in circumstances where they address corruption issues in a reactive rather than a proactive way."
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