The UK’s Serious Fraud Office, already beleaguered as the government tries to make up its mind about its fate, has now lost its General Counsel. The widely respected Vivian Robinson QC is said to be going to McGuireWoods, leaving the SFO in the summer.
It was hearing Viv Robinson speak, at IQPCs Munich conference last December, that got me interested in the Bribery Act. My focus is not so much on the possible prosecutions as on the additional, and very pointed, pressure which the Bribery Act puts on companies to pay attention to information management as one of several aspects of risk management and compliance deserving new attention. The specific point lies in the corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery, and its defence that the company had “adequate procedures” in place to anticipate and prevent bribery. This has many facets, but one of them parallels the view given by His Honour Judge Simon Brown QC in Earles v Barclays Bank to the effect that “potential litigants … need to anticipate having to give disclosure of specifically relevant electronic documentation and [have] the means of doing so efficiently and effectively”.
An article on thebriberyact.com, run by Barry Vitou of Pinsent Masons and Richard Kovalevsky QC, reporting Viv Robinson’s departure, draws attention to the uncertainty already surrounding the SFO’s future. As with so many other things, the government’s enthusiasm for decisiveness seems to pre-empt the application of any real thought – that is how we come to decommission the Ark Royal – the perfect floating hotel-cum-airfield – just as we incur four years’ worth of its running costs in accommodation bills for the forces engaged in Libya.
thebriberyact.com article gives some observations on the position of the SFO as Vivian Robinson prepares to leave. It links in turn to a thoughtful article in The Lawyer which gives a good summary of the political context and the implications of the decisions (or lack of them) which affect those interested in bribery, corruption and fraud.