This post was written by Rosanne M. Kay and Vanessa Assaiante.
The SFO has removed guidance on both self-reporting and on facilitation payments and corporate hospitality from its website leaving uncertainty behind.
The removal of the guidance on self-reporting is not surprising. It has been on the cards since Glyn Powell (Head of Fraud at the SFO) said at the UK Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners conference last year that the SFO were looking to update the self-reporting guidance following the enactment of the Bribery Act. Previous guidance was that companies who self-report were more likely to face civil rather than criminal penalties.
More surprising is the SFO’s removal of the guidance on facilitation payments and corporate hospitality. SFO guidance had been that it would not prosecute companies for facilitation payments if they followed certain procedures, nor for corporate hospitality so long as it was “reasonable and proportionate”. The guidance was on the whole well received, as had unequivocal statements made by the SFO corroborating it – only last month David Green commented that the SFO is not the “serious champagne office”. It was going to target “serious fraud”.
An SFO spokesperson has said that the guidance is under review but did not indicate how long that review would take. Clearly, this uncertainty is unhelpful.