Next month, Richard Alderman will step down as head of the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office. During his eventful four-year tenure, Alderman oversaw the introduction of the U.K. Bribery Act. He also waged a successful struggle to prevent the SFO from being absorbed by the U.K.’s National Crime Agency and Crown Prosecution Service.
Before joining the SFO, Alderman, pictured above, served as a senior official in the Inland Revenue/HM Revenue and Customs, handling tax investigations. He has not yet announced his post-SFO plans but told the Telegraph last year, “I’d like to be far more closely and directly involved in the real anti-corruption initiatives that are making a difference on the ground.”
Alderman’s departure comes at a particularly sensitive moment for the SFO. The agency is currently preparing its first corporate prosecutions under the Bribery Act (which came into effect in July 2011) and its practices and policies are being investigated by British authorities.
He very kindly answered our questions about this pivotal time for himself and the SFO.
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You will be stepping down as Director nine months into the life of the U.K. Bribery Act. Should people expect significant changes after next month?
Each director brings new ideas and energy to the SFO. David Green CB QC is a very distinguished fraud practitioner and will have lots of ideas about the future. I wish him every success as he leads the SFO when he takes over from me. It will be for David to set out his ideas on what he wants to see from the SFO.
What are the key components of a successful “adequate procedures” defense?
The U.K. Ministry of Justice has provided Guidance to assist corporates in designing an adequate procedures culture. The Guidance is not exhaustive. Whether a corporate has established a defense of adequate procedures will depend on the individual facts of a case.
It goes without saying that it is important that there is genuine top-level commitment together with processes that enable the top level board to check that this commitment is understood by their colleagues across the business and is actually being carried out in practice.
Further, there is an expectation that corporates recognize the importance of risk assessment with the top-level board having a very good oversight of the risks that face the group. The Ministry of Justice Guidance sets out what else will be needed.
Q: What distinguishes an effective anti-corruption employee training program from one that merely ticks the boxes?
It is important to see if the corporation looks at whether employees are carrying out what they have learned during the training. We also look at the effectiveness of the corporation’s whistleblower programme. No calls to the whistleblower number does not mean there is not a problem with corruption. A healthy and ethical corporation finds that it has an effective whistleblower programme with employees who feel encouraged to use it and trust it.