Global Settlements Are Here to Stay, Serious Fraud Director Alderman Says

U.K. Serious Fraud Office Director Richard Alderman said recent criticism by judges of its use of global settlements in corporate prosecutions won’t deter the agency from using such deals.

While prosecutors “haven’t found the right way” of doing the agreements yet, that won’t stop the SFO from trying, Alderman said yesterday at a round-table discussion at the law firm Eversheds LLP in London.

“Some people have questioned whether or not the criticism we received on one or two cases means that we won’t do global settlements again and that is totally wrong,” Alderman said. “Global settlements are here to stay.”

A U.K. judge in March approved the SFO’s first plea bargain in an overseas corruption probe involving fuel-additives maker Innospec Inc., while saying the agency shouldn’t make such deals in the future because it doesn’t have power to do so. The SFO’s proposed 30 million-pound ($46.2 million) plea bargain with BAE Systems Plc, Europe’s biggest defense company, still must win court approval.

Alderman also said the SFO will continue to rely on whistleblowers.

“We are very committed to getting whistleblowers to come talk to us,” Alderman said. “The courts are getting their heads around this, they’re giving us guidance. It’s something we want to encourage.”

In May, the Court of Appeal in London said the SFO overstepped its power by reaching a sentencing agreement with Robert John Dougall, a former employee at Johnson & Johnson’s U.K. unit who was involved in a scheme to bribe Greek doctors.

“A plea agreement or bargain between the prosecution and the defense, in which they agree what the sentence should be, or present what is in effect an agreed package for the court’s acquiescence, is contrary to principle,” the judges wrote.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at elarson4@bloomberg.net.

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