The head of the United Kingdom’s economic crimes investigative agency has stressed the need for companies to have a strong compliance programme.

Lisa Osofsky, in an online speech to compliance practitioners on Tuesday reported by the Wall Street Journal, said: “Are they part of the company’s DNA?”

“Or do they just adorn a very nice couple of binders that are held on a bookshelf that don’t really do much more than provide window-dressing?”

The SFO last year published guidance on how it evaluates compliance programmes, saying that the strength of compliance programmes can be taken into consideration when negotiating settlements through Deferred Prosecution Agreements during fraud investigations.

Osofksy cited two recent separate cases involving allegations of fraud involving Serco and G4S. The former received a bigger discount on its financial penalty, with the strength of the companies’ compliance programmes taken into account. Ms. Osofsky said. “G4S was in a different place in its compliance journey,” she said. “It hadn’t yet embedded and thought through its compliance obligations in a way that Serco could demonstrate to us it had.”

The guidance said: “The state of the compliance programme at the time of offending is relevant for some decisions; its current state is relevant for other decisions; and, if a Deferred Prosecution Agreement is under consideration, how it could change going forward can also be relevant”

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