Just as American lawyers are poring over the proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, attorneys in the U.K. now have new rules to abide by as well, specifically dealing with deferred-prosecution agreements.
U.K. attorneys will be able to use deferred-prosecution agreements (DPA) for the first time on Feb. 24. The DPA, which is commonly used in the United States, received royal assent in April 2013.
In a deferred-prosecution agreement, criminal charges against an organization are dropped after a specified period of time if the organization fully complies with a deal supervised by the judge. In the U.K., DPAs will only apply to organizations accused of economic crime.
Ahead of the beginning of DPA allowance, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has released guidance for prosecutors concerning when DPAs will be enforced. According to David Green, director of the SFO, the key reasoning for DPA allowance is to avoid collateral damage to employees and shareholders who may be blameless for a director’s economic improprieties.
“Deferred Prosecution Agreements avoid that collateral damage and provide a welcome addition to the prosecutor’s tool kit for use in appropriate circumstances,” Green said. “But DPAs are not a panacea, nor are they a mechanism for a corporate offender to buy itself out of trouble.”
Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, added that the inclusion of DPAs allows judges to have another tool in the arsenal to attack economic crime.
“Deferred Prosecution Agreements provide prosecutors with additional powers in the fight against fraud and economic crime,” Saunders said. “Whilst the circumstances appropriate to the use of DPAs may be quite rare for the CPS [Crown Protection Service], the guidelines published today set out our approach to this new legislative function in an open and transparent way.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, there is likely to be more judicial intervention in the U.K. DPA process than there is in the U.S. process. As a result, says Ali Sallaway, a London partner for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, neither companies nor prosecutors will be forced to sign agreements that they feel are in their own best interest.
For more on overseas regulations that multinational counsel should know, check out these InsideCounsel articles: