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The Future Of British Enforcement

SFO Director Richard Alderman: ‘Ethical companies have nothing to fear.’Richard Alderman has been the director of the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office since 2008. He’s a barrister who, before becoming Britain’s chief graft buster, headed the civil investigations division for Revenue and Customs, leading a staff of 3,000.

By the end of his first year at the SFO, the agency was working on about 65 cases. In 2009, the number rose to 86 cases. His target is 100 cases a year. 

Alderman, 58, agreed recently to answer questions about the Bribery Act, duplicate enforcement, and global compliance. Here’s the exchange:

FCPA Blog: When the Bribery Act becomes effective, should global companies fear the prospect of duplicate enforcement actions in both the U.S. and U.K.?

Richard Alderman: The SFO works closely with the DOJ and the SEC. We shall discuss how best to proceed. I do not want to see duplicate actions in each jurisdiction. I want the SFO to be able to agree with our U.S. counterparts on a resolution that we can pursue jointly with the corporate.

FCPA Blog: Isn’t the prospect of multiple prosecutions even more disturbing if other countries join the U.S. and U.K. in aggressively pursuing global corruption? Do we need some kind of supra-national enforcement body?

Richard Alderman: It is important that the enforcement authorities liaise closely together so that there can be an overall resolution subject to the decisions of the courts in each jurisdiction. These issues are best left to the authorities in each jurisdiction and the courts.

FCPA Blog: Does the SFO have adequate authority to deal with companies that self-report offenses  and whistleblowers from inside companies that may seek credit for their cooperation?

Richard Alderman: We are very committed to making self reporting work. It has many advantages for corporates, the public and the SFO. We have to identify the cases where a civil resolution is appropriate and take this to a Judge with civil jurisdiction. Whistleblowers who come to the SFO are motivated by public spirit. They are looking to the SFO to bring about justice. Financial rewards are unnecessary in these cases.

FCPA Blog: There seems to be a lot of loud opposition to the Bribery Act. Do you think the U.K. is ready for the new law or is a cultural shift still some years away?

Richard Alderman: The SFO is a strong supporter of the Bribery Act. Good ethical corporates in the U.K. already have major compliance programmes and a strong anti-corruption culture. They have nothing to fear from the Act. The corporates and individuals who should be fearful are those who want to continue to use corruption to gain a business advantage over those companies that are not prepared to act corruptly.

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The FCPA Blog on the road. We’ll be speaking in Houston on March 10. Hope to see you there. More details here.

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