New Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) - PwC comments

Published at 16:04 PM on 14 February 2014

New Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) will be available to Crown prosecutors by 24 February, following the publication today of a code of practice from the Serious Fraud Office and Director of Public Prosecutions. A DPA is an agreement between an organisation and  prosecutor which, if approved by a court, means a charge is made but court proceedings are suspended. By entering a DPA, an organisation agrees to comply with the requirements placed upon it by the prosecutor, for example financial penalties. The offences for which they may be used can be fraud, bribery and other economic crime.

Commenting on the introduction of the DPA code of practice, Keith McCarthy, PwC director, Forensic Services, said:

"One certainty is that businesses  will need to scrutinise the new code of practice to see what it means for them. The code makes it plain that co-operation should be over and above mere compliance with any coercive measure.

"Some might consider holding back from reporting to the authorities but this could be a high-risk game, due to the co-ordinated way in which agencies investigating economic crimes are now working together, both in the UK and overseas. Multi-jurisdictional investigations are high-cost and we need to see how the DPA practice develops in the area of cross-border criminality. But there is no doubt that bringing together specialist skills from across the law enforcement agencies will mean offences can be handled more quickly and efficiently and will help the prosecutor in considering the merits of negotiating a DPA.

"Businesses should welcome the new approach. Those that decide not to disclose suspects and offences might find themselves having to deal with enforcement enquiries in a disjointed, uncoordinated and ultimately expensive way.

"Getting to grips with the new legislation will be a learning curve for businesses. They will be expected to admit offences, understand how the offences should be handled and what the disclosures could mean for their business and employees. There will be a lot of pain and publicity, but perhaps ultimately this will be better than constantly looking over their shoulders at what the law enforcement agencies are doing

to tackle serious economic crime."




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