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SFO publishes new ‘comprehensive guidance’ on Deferred Prosecution Agreements

The UK Serious Fraud Office published a chapter Friday from its internal Operational Handbook that offers “comprehensive guidance” on how it approaches Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs), and how it “engages with companies where a DPA is a prospective outcome.”

SFO director Lisa Osofsky (pictured above) said: “Over the past six years, we at the SFO have been developing our approach to negotiating and entering into DPAs, and in turn, establishing best practice. Publishing this guidance will provide further transparency on what we expect from companies looking to cooperate with us.”

A DPA is a court-approved agreement between a company and a prosecutor at the SFO or Crown Prosecution Service. The DPA is an alternative to prosecution of the company “where it is in the public interest,” the SFO said

DPAs allow a prosecution to be “suspended for a defined period” provided the organization meets certain conditions.

The SFO is the only UK law enforcement agency to have negotiated DPAs. It has entered into eight so far. DPAs became possible in the UK in February 2014, when Schedule 17 to the Crime and Courts Act 2013 came into force.

There is no requirement for the company “to formally admit guilt in respect of the offenses charged in the indictment,” according to the guidance.

But the SFO said Friday that DPAs require the company “to admit misconduct,” pay a financial penalty, and agree to meet conditions set out by the prosecutor to ensure future cooperation and compliance.

According to the SFO, its Operational Handbook is for internal guidance only and is published on the SFO’s website “solely in the interests of transparency.”

“It is not published for the purpose of providing legal advice and should not therefore be relied on as the basis for any legal advice or decision.”

The SFO’s newly published chapter on Deferred Prosecution Agreements from its internal Operational Handbook is here.

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