Alan Milford, general counsel for the U.K. Serious Fraud Office, recently provided compliance officers and audit executives at Compliance Week’s Europe event with some interesting views from the SFO. Aside from reminding compliance officers that it is their duty to speak up and report wrongdoing, he mentioned that compliance officers have been doing a good job at keeping up with the changing regulatory landscape. “As we welcome the new compliance culture, we do not consider that it is for us to offer advice or assistance on compliance policies: a stance for which we have in the past been criticized,” he said.
Cooperating with the SFO was another important topic highlighted during Milford’s speech. For large companies that might be more accustomed to dealing with the U.S. where there is a much more systematic approach and credits can be won and points can be obtained for a reduction on sentences and the sentencing commission guidelines, Milford said that most cases that the SFO investigates are usually based on the context of individual cases and the SFO has set in place “a pretty rigid structure, which evolves from the Department of Justice.”
Milford added that once the DPAs are signed, the SFO will learn more about this structure and “the way we have to justify it in court, the first question will be is it in the interest of justice?” Milford said.
Another key area that Milford touched on is third-party compliance. He urged compliance officers to pay close attention to the actions of their vendors and agents, as they are an area of interest to the SFO. “Intermediaries and agents are a classic red flag, particularly where they are purporting to offer assistance in winning business in a country other than the one in which they are based.”