The Serious Fraud office has announced that it is discontinuing its investigation into Rolls-Royce and there will be no prosecutions of any individuals for criminal conduct following the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) reached in 2017.
The SFO and Rolls-Royce entered into a DPA which was approved by Sir Brian Leveson, President of the Queen’s Bench Division on 17 January 2017. In his judgment it was stated that the investigation revealed the most serious breaches of the criminal law in the areas of bribery and corruption, some of which implicated senior management and, on the face of it, controlling minds of the company. In spite of this, the SFO concluded today that there was either insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction or it was not in the public interest to bring a prosecution in these cases. This follows the failure to secure any convictions of senior management of Tesco following its DPA in 2017.
Under the weight of SFO investigations big business is paying hundreds of millions of pounds and entering into Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA) to avoid prosecution for the criminal actions of their employees. The SFO are then failing to secure convictions against those employees, or not even bringing charges against them. The corporates must now be asking themselves if they should have agreed to the DPAs.
The question must be asked as to how the public can have faith in the SFO and the DPA process, if this is the outcome of such high profile investigations.
Rolls Royce offered "extraordinary" cooperation to the SFO even waiving legal professional privilege. It was rewarded with a DPA requiring it to pay almost £500 million. At the time of the judgment Sir Brian Leveson praised Rolls Royce's openness and encouraged other businesses to follow its example. In light of the SFO dropping this investigation defence lawyers will be cautious to recommend this approach.