SFO investigators had been examining how the Bank of England attempted to support banks in 2007 and 2008, when a number of them faced uncertain futures. But the SFO has now announced that it has found no proof of wrongdoing and, as a result, there will be no prosecutions.
The Bank attempted to bolster financially-stricken banks by holding auctions of central bank funds in return for collateral, such as bonds. It saw this as a legitimate response to a crisis that eventually led to a number of banks, including Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, receiving a financial bail-out from the taxpayer.
SFO investigators had been concerned about the way the bidding process for the funds had been arranged and conducted. But in a statement announcing the end of the investigation, the SFO has stated that it is satisfied with the way the process was carried out.
The statement said: "The focus of the investigation was whether assistance had been provided to certain financial institutions to enable them to bid successfully for the available funding, to the possible detriment of other institutions.
"After a thorough investigation the SFO has concluded that there is no evidence of criminality in relation to this matter."
The SFO has now closed its investigation. For the Bank of England, the fact that there will be no prosecutions will come as a relief.
The episode is one that emphasises the importance of shrewd management of your affairs when it comes to facing investigation by the SFO.
There can be little doubt that the SFO thought there was a case to answer when it started probing what may have gone on at the Bank of England. It has since been convinced otherwise. If the SFO does believe that a person or company is guilty of business crime, this can only ever be an assumption in the early stages.
Such assumptions can be challenged by producing material that counters the allegations and proves that nothing was untoward. Legal argument and questioning the credibility of the SFO claims can ensure that anyone under investigation receives fair and just treatment – but such a process must begin the moment you suspect that the SFO is investigating.