‘A brave new world’: City firms anticipate further changes after new white collar reforms introduced

City lawyers anticipate more cooperation between the public and private sectors as the introduction of the Criminal Finances Bill into the House of Commons brings greater reform to white collar crime.

The Bill, proposed earlier this October, aims to tackle money laundering and corruption, giving the government the ability to recover the proceeds of crime and counter terrorist financing. The reforms are viewed by many as an extension of the Bribery Act introduced several years ago.

A national risk assessment carried out in 2015 called for reforms to the supervisory regime, signalling the need for a more robust law enforcement response and an increase to the UK’s international reach to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing risks.

The Bill proposes a new criminal offence for corporations who fail to stop staff facilitating tax evasion. It will also improve the ability of law enforcement agencies and courts to recover criminal assets more effectively, and encourage better use of public and private sector resources against high level threats under the Suspicious Activity Reports regime.

White & Case white collar partner Jonathan Pickworth expects the changes will have a significant impact and may only be the first step.

Pickworth (pictured) said: ‘Reform in this area has been long overdue. There is provision in the Bill for gateways for information sharing, not only between financial sector sharing and the government, but also between financial institutions themselves so banks may be required to share information with each other.’

Head of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan’s London White Collar Robert Amaee said the Bill introduces ‘a number of sensible measures’ and ‘continues the process started by the Bribery Act by proposing to place an obligation on companies to take measures aimed at preventing the facilitation of tax avoidance in the UK or elsewhere.’

Amaee added: ‘For these measures to make a real difference the enforcement bodies tasked with seizing the criminal property must be adequately supported and resourced.’

‘The bill also brings us a step closer the reality of a brave new world of expanded corporate criminal liability for ‘failing to prevent’ the criminal acts of employees and agents. Although the bill in its current form does not yet go as far as introducing the much talked about liability for failing to prevent all economic crimes, it does continue the process started by the Bribery Act by proposing to place an obligation on companies to take measures aimed at preventing the facilitation of tax avoidance in the UK or elsewhere.’

madeleine.farman@legalease.co.uk