Deferred prosecution agreements: US-style plea bargaining hits the UK

There has been a growing appetite in the UK for increased transparency and accountability in the investigation and prosecution of corporate financial crime for some time. Pursuing legal action against a company for fraud, bribery, corruption or money-laundering offences involves laborious investigation and preparation, and difficulties involved in bringing cases against corporates where individuals may have been at fault mean that satisfactory resolutions are rare. The government’s proposed solution is the introduction, via the Crime and Courts Act 2013 (CCA), of the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA).

A DPA is a voluntary agreement, for a specified time period, between a prosecutor and a commercial organisation, that criminal proceedings will not be progressed against the accused pending successful compliance with the terms of the DPA. The terms of the DPA can include, for example, financial penalties; confiscation, compensation or restitution arrangements; the imposition of compliance conditions; employee training; co-operation/disclosure requirements; the payment of costs; and particular consequences for breach. In addition, should an organisation fail to meet its DPA obligations, criminal proceedings may ensue after all. DPAs are intended to both encourage corporates to self-report incidents of financial crime and to more quickly and cost-effectively resolve investigations and implement enforcement…

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