Aziz Rahman of business crime specialists Rahman Ravelli considers her claims.
After two years as Serious Fraud Office Director, Lisa Osofksy believes the agency is heading in the right direction.
In a speech to the Cambridge Symposium on Economic Crime, she emphasised the progress the SFO has made since she took over in 2018. Back then, she outlined her aims as being boosting cooperation with national and international partners, making better use of technology, building up the agency’s intelligence and bring more pace and focus to investigations.
Osofsky appears to be happy with the progress that the SFO is making when it comes to cooperation, citing its work with France and the US on the huge Airbus bribery settlement. She is also clear that her agency is now harnessing data and utilising top-end technology to ensure what she terms “increased throughput’’ while reducing data processing times. And she believes that progress is being made regarding the SFO’s intelligence capabilities.
Two years on and it is her attention to the need for that greater focus and pace that is most welcome. Her speech emphasised the value of streamlining work and bringing more rigour to investigations; although she admits that such changes may take time to affect much of the SFO caseload. One of the main complaints of defence lawyers has always been the length of time that SFO investigations take. So her acknowledgement that investigations with diminishing prospects are neither fair on suspects nor good for prosecutors is welcome. It will, however, be more welcome when the evidence of this is clear for all to see.
It is worth noting here that while deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) were not one of the four pillars of her 2018 speech, she now envisages greater use of the “unique leverage’’ they offer as a means of rehabilitating companies. We should, therefore, probably expect more of them in the future.
The picture that Osofsky paints is, on the whole, a welcome one. Nobody would be against less lengthy SFO investigations and greater use of DPAs may also make the agency more dynamic. But unless such intended outcomes are actually delivered they will count for little or nothing in the near future.