Corporate crime update: criminal prosecution of corporations — more likely and much harsher

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After much anticipation, it has been announced that deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) will become available in the UK from 24 February 2014. The SFO, inspired by the extensive and successful use of DPAs by US regulators, is hopeful that their introduction in the UK will be an effective tool for tackling serious economic crime.

DPAs provide a mechanism for settling the criminal liability of a corporate entity without prosecution in return for the corporate agreeing to certain conditions. These conditions include payment of a fine, introduction of policies and procedures to prevent similar conduct in future and supervision by an independent external monitor.

The most obvious consequence of the use of DPAs is a likely increase in the number of enforcement actions for economic crime by the SFO. DPAs make enforcement a feasible option because launching an investigation that can then be settled is cheaper than fighting it out through trial. This is an important factor for the SFO, whose ability to investigate economic crime has, historically, been compromised by a lack of resources…

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