Laurence Fletcher of Reuters reported this week that the U.K. Attorney General is investigating the Serious Fraud Office, ‘reviving questions over the future of an agency criticised for dropping several high-profile cases.’
The Attorney General’s office issued a statement that the inspection was “not in any way, shape or form” about whether the SFO should be broken up.
Reuters said the investigation centers on how the SFO decides what cases to prosecute.
A plan last year to break up the SFO was defeated at the last minute after protests by the press and compliance community.
British Home Secretary Theresa May had planned to send the SFO’s prosecuting function to the Crown Prosecution Service and its investigating side to the National Crime Agency.
The government has cut the SFO’s annual budget by a third to £34 million.
‘People inside the [SFO] are not happy’ about the current investigation, Reuters said. They were assured last year that the agency’s position was secure.
Several top SFO lawyers and investigators have left for private practice. Bloomberg reported the departure last month of Glyn Powell, the head of the SFO’s fraud and assurance group. He’s joining Jones Day. Chief investigator Keith McCarthy left in December to join a Big Four accounting firm. General Counsel Vivian Robinson also moved to a law firm last year.
SFO director Richard Alderman will step down soon. He’ll be replaced by David Green from the Crown Prosecution Service’s fraud group. Alderman took over in 2008.