The Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) has published its guidance on Corporate Co-operation setting out in detail what actions would be seen as amounting to co-operation by corporate entities when investigations are commenced by the SFO.
The SFO looks for a “genuinely proactive approach” when corporates learn of offending that that goes “above and beyond” what the law requires.
The SFO also caveats that co-operation does not guarantee any particular outcome, stating that it cannot provide any check lists as each case will turn on its own facts.
The guidance does however provide a list of what would be considered good general practice including guidance on how to preserve evidence from: digital means and paper records; financial records; licences; industry and background information as well as evidence relating to individuals.
There is a reminder of guidance in relation to the waiving of legal privilege, particularly with reference to the Deferred Prosecution Agreements per code of practice. The SFO goes on to warn however that an organisation that fails to waive privilege and provide witness accounts would not attain the protection against prosecution that is found in the DPA code. Neither do the SFO rule out the use of powers of a compulsion to obtain relevant materials. However, were it to use such powers it would not necessarily indicate lack of co-operation.
However, it is clear that the guidance is far from definitive and it is best to seek immediate legal advice in any event should the SFO make contact with your company or as soon as you suspect that any offences may have been committed in order that a full internal investigation can take quickly. It is also always best to ensure that correct policies and procedures are in place in the first instance to avoid offending in the first place.