On 1st November the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launched a ‘whistle-blower hotline’ coupled with an online service for reporting suspected fraud and corruption. The new route is primarily targeted at people who have insider knowledge through their professional activities of situations that appear to be suspicious. ‘SFO Confidential’ is intended to help unmask instances of fraud and bribery following the introduction of the Bribery Act 2010, which came into force four months ago.
Introduced as part of a global crack-down on corruption in business, the Bribery Act applies to both UK and foreign companies, provided they have some operations in the UK. The SFO are responsible for conducting investigations of this nature within the UK jurisdiction and the purpose of this new hotline is to provide a readily accessible service to people who wish to raise concerns.
The success of the new hotline will depend on self-reporting, with callers most likely to be those who are not themselves victims of fraud or directly disadvantaged, but that have some knowledge of fraud and corruption occurring in their workplace. The Director of the SFO has urged such people to come forward, though it is not difficult to understand why they may be apprehensive.
Last month saw the dismissal of Mr Michael Woodford, the former Chief Executive of Olympus. He commissioned auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers to look into unexplained payments made to a company in the Cayman Islands. Woodford claims that he was sacked for raising the issue. The SFO has given assurance that contact can be made anonymously and that any identities will be securely protected. It has also expressed that calls would be taken by a dedicated team of SFO operatives, trained in dealing with any potential anxieties.
For further information and assistance on your company’s compliance with the Bribery Act, or if you have been accused of offences under the new legislation, please do not hesitate to contact one of our fraud and business crime solicitors.