The new head of the Serious Fraud Office has just been announced. David Green CB Q.C (left) is an interesting man. He started his career with three years in defence intelligence at the Ministry of Defence, studied for the Bar part time before joining one of the foremost criminal sets of Barristers in the country.
In 2000 he became a Q.C (leading trial counsel for the uninitiated) and also a part time judge. In 2004 he left the Bar to take up the position as Director of Revenue and Customs prosecution and 2010 became Director of the Crown Prosecution Service Central Fraud Group before returning to the Bar and private practise earlier this year. In many respects excellent credentials for his new post.
There are though doom sayers who say he is taking on an impossible task. They point to reduced budgets, by 25%, and “the exodus” of experienced staff (mainly to U.S. law firms).
Whilst it is clear that these two issues can’t be ignored, David Green is taking over a prosecution unit that is in far better shape than it was when Richard Alderman took over. It has undergone significant management change, conviction rates are up and it is now armed with the Bribery Act. Furthermore the Solicitor General, with the Attorney General’s support, is also pushing for legislation to facilitate Deferred Prosecution Agreements. If they get this right and they may well, it will have an immense impact on how the SFO operates and is able to engage with corporations to expedite and resolve cases within its mandate.
Nor is the drain on experienced staff as bad as it might seem. Whilst there will clearly be some operational impact this is likely to be short lived. There are a large number of very highly experienced and ambitious lawyers who will relish the challenge of joining the Serious Fraud Office because of the quality and consistency of work and because they can now see that after a few years of that experience they too will be much better placed to practise at a major City firm.
Green has a great mandate, new powers and the opportunity to reinvigorate the brand – not all bad news – indeed some may see the glimmer of Green shoots.
Bill Waite is a founder of The Risk Advisory Group (a sponsor of the FCPA Blog) and an expert on anti-bribery and corruption legislation. He formerly practiced as a criminal barrister before joining the Serious Fraud Office in 1991 as a prosecutor. He can be contacted here.