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Slaughters’ high-profile move for ex-SFO chief hits watchdog’s review

Slaughter and May’s high stakes move on former Serious Fraud Office (SFO) director David Green QC is being held up by regulatory approvals, which could delay his hire by up to two years.

Slaughters is the frontrunner to secure the highly-coveted Green, who stepped down as SFO director in April. He has considerable expertise following his six-year stint at the SFO, raising ethical questions around how quickly he should be allowed to move into private practice.

The hire has hit a stumbling block in the form of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), because its clearance is required before Green can swap public office to work in the private sector. The agency, which is expected to reach its determination in a matter of days, was set up to vet moves by ministers and civil servants into commercial roles for conflicts.

A move to Slaughters could be potentially problematic given the firm’s role advising the SFO on a legal wrangle triggered by a botched raid against the Tchenguiz brothers . The Magic Circle firm also advised Rolls-Royce on its deferred prosecution deal with the SFO, which was viewed as one of Green’s key wins at his term heading the agency.

A spokesperson for ACOBA declined to comment on Green’s case specifically, but told Legal Business the maximum job restriction period they can apply on future employment is two years. However, such lengthy restrictions are very rare. Two years ago, ACOBA imposed a three-month waiting period on ex-Chancellor George Osborne’s plans to become a speaker with the Washington Speakers Bureau. If the same period were to apply to Green, he would be clear to join Slaughters from next month.

It is possible that the 64-year-old Green will be joining the law firm as a consultant, given that Slaughters’ partnership terms have a mandatory partnership retirement age of 60. It is unclear if there is enough flexibility in Slaughters’ partnership for Green to be handed equity status following a specific endorsement by the entire partnership, though many peers have such scope.

It is believed Green is still mulling an offer from another leading City firm, though Slaughters appears the most likely to secure his services.

Among Green’s major accomplishments were the deferred prosecution agreements struck with Tesco and Rolls-Royce, the latter of which was worth £497.3m. His expected arrival would follow other ex-prosecutors taking top private practice jobs, most recently when Linklaters hired the UK’s former director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders.

This week, Green’s replacement was finally named as former FBI deputy general counsel Lisa Osofsky following a two-month delay. The lag in naming the successor drew criticism from senior lawyers.

While senior moves between public office and major law firms are common in the US, they have until recently been rare in the UK. Potential controversies with Saunders and Green are early indications that such recruitment can bring additional complications for City law firms.