LONDON Oct 23 Britain is adopting U.S.-style
plea bargaining deals to persuade unscrupulous companies to
admit wrongdoing in a move to bring more firms to justice and
help tackle an annual fraud bill estimated at 73 billion pounds
Justice Minister Damian Green said on Tuesday so-called
Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) would prove a valuable
tool for prosecutors struggling to nail corporate fraudsters who
rely on the cost and complexity of cross border investigations
to evade justice.
"Deferred Prosecution Agreements ... will ensure that more
unacceptable corporate behaviour is dealt with ... through
substantial penalties, proper reparation to victims, and
measures to prevent future wrongdoing," he said.
Britain's cash-strapped Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been
keen to use DPAs, under which companies that accept wrongdoing
will have to comply with stringent conditions to avoid lengthy
Both U.S. and British DPAs will be sanctioned by a judge.
But in Britain, judges will be brought into the process much
earlier to ensure any deal struck is in the public interest.
The government hopes the new tool will allow prosecutors to
focus on companies that fail to admit wrongdoing and serious
cases requiring full criminal prosecution.
Lawyers said DPAs needed to be policed properly, adding it
remained to be seen whether they would encourage companies to
"This will require the cooperation of the judiciary who will
be keen to uphold the public interest in prosecuting corporate
fraud, ensuring justice is not surrendered in favour of
political or financial expediency," said Michael Caplan, a
partner at law firm Kingsley Napley.
"What's more, the future may look bleak for boardroom
executives who may find themselves personally exposed to
criminal prosecution once the corporation's fate has been sealed
under a DPA."
The SFO, which operates on a tight annual budget of around
30 million pounds, has been lambasted for dropping high-profile
investigations it says were unlikely to yield any prosecution.
Current investigations include a probe into the Libor
interest rate rigging scandal, the advisory fees paid by
Barclays to avoid a government bailout in 2008 and a
$1.7 billion accounting fraud at Japan's Olympus.
DPAs have now been added to the Crime and Courts Bill, which
is currently winding its way through parliament. They are not
expected to be implemented before early 2014.