Sunday 8 January 2017 7:05 pm

White collar crime crackdown expected in 2017, as UK prosecutors hone in on Bribery Act

This year will see renewed efforts on clamping down on white collar crime, particularly as prosecutors chase convictions under the Bribery Act, experts have told City A.M.

Prosecutions for bribery offences have been picking up pace ever since the Bribery Act 2010 came into force in 2011.

Last year marked the first time a company was sentenced under the legislation's relatively new offence of failing to prevent bribery. Property surveyors Sweett Group was ordered to pay £2.3m, following a guilty plea in 2015

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"We will inevitably see an increase in the use of deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) in the UK by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), further prosecutions under the Bribery Act, the Criminal Finances Act coming into force, the introduction of legislation including the corporate offence of failure to prevent economic crime and the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority trying to hold senior managers accountable for breaches in their firms," Michael Ruck, financial enforcement lawyer at Pinsent Masons, told City A.M.

The fraud squad secured the UK's first DPA – essentially a type of plea deal where prosecution against a company is suspended in return for it meeting certain conditions – against ICBC Standard Bank in November 2015, and its second against an unnamed company in July last year. 

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Meanwhile, the Senior Managers' Regime came into force last March, in a bid to make managers more accountable to any wrongdoing which goes on under their roof, while the Criminal Finances Bill is currently making steady progress through the House of Commons

It's not just prosecutors on UK shores who will be getting heavy-handed on white collar crime this year. Ruck added:

The US Securities and Exchange Commission will increase its focus on insider dealing and co-operation between UK, US and other overseas agencies will continue to see an ever increasing number of regulators and prosecuting agencies taking action against corporates and individuals.

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However, as the overseers become more vigilant, would-be criminals will also be on the lookout for new areas to exploit.

"As technology get more advanced so fraudsters get more sophisticated," Sophie Eyre, partner and co-head of the London dispute resolution team at Bird & Bird, told City A.M. "Data breaches are likely to be more frequent in 2017 with increasing penetration of personal information and its subsequent misuse."