Titus, Steele and Steven Discuss Fate of UK Serious Fraud Office

April 5, 2022

McGuireWoods London partners Francesca Titus and Chloe Steele and associate Katie Steven wrote an April 2022 Financier Worldwide article exploring the track record, criticism and likely fate of the UK’s Serious Fraud Office. They also suggested what they consider a good replacement for the fraud enforcement authority.

In the article, they pointed to a January 2022 Treasury Committee on Economic Crime report that recommended dedicating a single enforcement agency to fighting fraud and other white-collar crime. Titus, Steele and Steven found it significant that the report barely mentioned the Serious Fraud Office, charged with exactly that mission. “Is this because the fate of the SFO hangs in the balance?” they wrote.

The article discussed the SFO’s string of mishandlings that led to the attorney general calling for an independent review of a specific case as well as wider issues of SFO policy, practices, procedures and “related culture.” The authors noted, “With the SFO’s poor record before the criminal courts, growing lack of credibility and worrying investigative behaviours, companies are no longer concerned about the outcome of an SFO investigation, or the threat of large financial orders.”

Many believe this may prove the end of the SFO, they wrote. So what would take its place?

“A dedicated new arm to the National Crime Agency (NCA) would do a better job,” the authors said, noting some of the NCA’s recent successes. “The NCA is the UK’s lead agency tackling serious and organised crime, including cyber crime, economic crime and supply of drugs and weapons…. A well-resourced new department under the NCA umbrella, tasked with tackling the mushrooming issue of fraud, is a solution worth considering.”