Dealing With the SFO After Its “Fundamental Failures”

An independent review of the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) criticizing a number of the office’s missteps may have left some wondering whether and to what extent the office has been hobbled by the review’s release. It was triggered by the SFO’s behavior in the Unaoil case, chronicles the SFO’s performance in its pursuit of Ziad Akle, an individual associated with Unaoil. The review, authored by Sir David Calvert-Smith, identifies poor recordkeeping, disclosure failings, and inadequate case resourcing as well as distrust between the case team and senior management. The SFO’s performance in recent times seems to have been something less than stellar, with the overturning of Akle’s conviction, as well as convictions for Paul bond and Stephen Whitely in the Unaoil matter. What this bodes for its own future could depend on its willingness and ability to make meaningful change in a relatively short period of time. Regardless of whether the SFO can do that, the defense bar is likely to be a bit more empowered than it once was in its dealings with the SFO. See “SBM Offshore Reaches FCPA Settlement After a Reopened DOJ Investigation” (Dec. 13, 2017) and “Petrobras and Unaoil Investigations Collide in Individual Prosecutions in the U.S. and U.K.” (Nov. 29, 2017).

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