New offence of failure to prevent fraud on the horizon

New offence of failure to prevent fraud on the horizon

Law firms and accountants that fail to do enough to prevent fraud are the target of the UK government’s Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill.

The government intends to introduce a new offence in the bill, when it makes its way to the Lords, that will be based on similar offences for bribery and tax evasion, security minister Tom Tugendhat said. Under such laws, prosecutors need only prove that organisations lacked “reasonable” or “adequate” controls to stop wrongdoing.

At present, prosecutors need to prove that a “directing mind” at a firm intended to commit the offence.

Debate in the Commons yesterday revolved around whether MPs should also seek to include a number of other provisions in the bill, such as measures to prevent the misuse of libel laws.

The director of the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) backed the plans.

SFO chief Lisa Osofsky said they had the “potential to transform prosecution” of the crime.

Ms Osofksy added that the “failure to prevent bribery offence was a game changer” after it was introduced in 2010.

It “supported our record £280m conviction of Glencore last November and has featured in nine of our twelve deferred prosecution agreements,” she said.

Dr Susan Hawley, executive director of Spotlight on Corruption, said “it is highly welcome that the corporate liability reform will finally make it onto the statute books”.

She called on the government to take a “broad and ambitious” approach and to introduce “strong measures to hold senior executives to account where companies they lead engage in economic crime.”

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