ICBC Standard Bank has instructed Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) on plans to enter into the first-ever UK deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
The SFO revealed on Thursday it had struck a deal to settle its investigation into the bank, which will go before a High Court hearing on Monday (30 November).
Lord Justice Brian Leveson has already given his initial sign-off on the deal, which will mark the first such plea agreement between the SFO and a major British company after months of speculation over who would be first to settle.
HSF partner Rod Fletcher and senior associate Ajay Malhotra are advising the bank on the DPA, instructing Cloth Fair Chambers’ Nicholas Purnell QC.
Jones Day represented Standard Bank’s parent group on its investigation into the original allegation of bribery and alerted the SFO to the issue. Partner Sion Richards led the firm’s team alongside fellow partner Adam Brown.
The SFO’s in-house legal team, led by general counsel Alun Milford, has instructed 1 Brick Court’s Edward Garnier QC, QEB Hollis Whiteman’s Crispin Aylett QC and Red Lion Chambers’ Allison Clare.
DPAs were introduced in the UK last year as an official way of settling costly corporate investigations. The deal is a court-approved process in which a company admits wrongdoing, pays a fine and agrees to a number of compliance measures in order to suspend potential legal proceedings.
DPAs hit headlines this summer after it emerged the SFO had invited a number of businesses and banks to discuss a deal to settle its fraud and corruption investigations, including Barclays, Tesco and Rolls-Royce.
Standard Bank is the UK subsidiary of South Africa’s largest banking group Standard Bank Group. It was fined £7.6m by the Financial Conduct Authority in January 2014 for failings related to its anti-money laundering policies.
The bank said in a statement it would not pay more than $40m as part of any agreement with the watchdog.
ICBC acquired a 60 per cent majority shareholdering in the bank in February this year. In a statement the IBCB (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) said the facts to which the DPA related took place before the acquisition.