The director of the UK Serious Fraud Office, David Green QC (pictured) has had his contract extended by two years to maintain his position as the UK’s top financial crime prosecutor until April 2018.
Green, who was appointed head of the fraud fighting organisation in April 2012 for a four-year term, has agreed to stay on to make it a six-year spell as director of the SFO.
While previous regimes had been criticised for a lack of aggression, Green has opened probes against the Bank of England over liquidity auctions during the financial crisis, supermarket Tesco over accounting irregularities and engine maker Rolls-Royce over bribery allegations in Indonesia and China during his time at the helm.
Green oversaw the UK’s first Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), a US-style plea-bargain deal, at the end of 2015 when the UK arm of Standard Bank agreed to pay $33m to settle an investigation into alleged bribes paid to the Tanzanian government to secure a $600m contract. Tesco are understood to be considering a DPA to settle its SFO investigation.
The former 6 King’s Bench Walk barrister also secured the SFO’s first admission of the failure to prevent bribery offence under the Bribery Act by Sweett Group, a quantity surveyor probed by the watchdog over bribery in the Middle East. But while the SFO secured an 11-year sentence against Tom Hayes in its first criminal trial over the rigging of Libor, six City brokers accused of helping Hayes were found not guilty in January.
While the SFO has partly rebuilt its reputation under Green, following an embarrassing raid on property tycoons Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz using illegal search warrants under Green’s predecessor Richard Alderman, the watchdog is still underfunded.
The agency’s annual budget has been stuck at around £33m for the past four years and SFO prosecutors asked the government for £21m in additional funding in January, the fourth such request in as many years. The SFO said £15.5m of this was needed urgently.
The SFO has around 60 live investigations and ‘David Green will view his directorship as a job half done’ says Christopher David, UK investigations counsel at WilmerHale.
‘He has turned the SFO back into a proper criminal prosecutor and has had some success,’ he added. ‘That said, there is still much to do. Alstom, Rolls-Royce, GSK, Barclays-Qatar, Tesco, further Libor prosecutions and many others are still waiting on trials or charging decisions and it will be against this list that the success of his directorship will be judged.’
White & Case white-collar crime partner Jonathan Pickworth said: ‘the ending of the uncertainty around the SFO’s leadership is going to be welcomed both inside and outside the organisation’ and that Green’s reappointment had been a ‘long time coming’.
‘Green’s tenure has been characterised by a more aggressive approach, in contrast to previous director Richard Alderman who many saw as too soft. There is, however, a danger that in attempting to emulate what it perceives as US aggression in order to obtain the credibility of the Department of Justice, the SFO may be seen as lacking impartiality in its investigations.’