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U.K. Serious Fraud Office (Sort Of) Announces Two Bribery Act Enforcement Actions

Yesterday, the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office announced [1] two related Bribery Act enforcement actions.

Well sort of, because the SFO did not identify the companies at issue or the specifics of the enforcement actions due to “legal reasons.”

In pertinent part, the SFO release states:

“On 19 July 2021, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) received approval by Mrs Justice May for separate Deferred Prosecution Agreements entered into with two UK-based companies for bribery offences. The two DPAs share a common Statement of Facts. The criminal conduct saw bribes paid in relation to multi-million pound UK contracts.

The two companies will pay a total of £2,510,065, comprising disgorgement of profits and a financial penalty.

The SFO cannot identify the companies for legal reasons. The charges relate to offences contrary to s.1 and s.7 of the Bribery Act 2010.

Both companies co-operated fully with the SFO.”

In the release, Lisa Osofsky (Director of the SFO) stated:

“These companies either actively participated in or failed to prevent the rolling use of bribes to unfairly win contracts. The companies were registered and operated in the UK. Their bribery undermined the fundamental principles of fairness and the rule of law that we expect in this country. The SFO exists to uphold these principles and DPAs enable us to do this, punishing companies for their crimes but also putting in place measures which ensure they will not flout the rule of law again.”

According to the SFO release:  “Reporting restrictions apply under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 in respect of aspects of these proceedings. The full documentation (Deferred Prosecution Agreements, Statement of Facts and Judgment) will only be published when those restrictions have been lifted.”

This is not the first time the SFO has announced a vague enforcement action.

As highlighted here [2], in 2016 the SFO announced that a U.K. company resolved a Bribery Act enforcement action but did not name the company “due to ongoing, related legal proceedings.”

Nearly three years later, after individuals associated with the company were acquitted on related charges, the SFO announced that the company was Sarclad Ltd.