U.K. Serious Fraud Office Director Richard Alderman said his agency would continue to use global settlements in foreign-bribery prosecutions, despite their cool reception by judges in two recent cases.
Alderman, speaking at the law firm Eversheds LLP in London on Thursday, said prosecutors “haven’t found the right way” of doing the agreements yet, Bloomberg reported. But the SFO will continue trying, he said.
“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 said the SFO acted beyond its authority in securing a trans-Atlantic plea bargain with the U.S. in a corruption case involving chemical manufacturer Innospec Inc. A U.K. division of Innospec agreed to pay $12.7 million after admitting to paying bribes to Indonesian government officials. The U.K. fine was in conjunction with U.S. fines against Innospec totaling $40.2 million for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.
“I have concluded that the director of the SFO had no power to enter into the arrangements made and no such arrangements should be made again,” Lord Justice John Thomas said in his ruling.
Thomas also said the fine against Innospec was too low.
In April, a U.K. judge sentenced a former marketing executive at Johnson & Johnson’s U.K. subsidiary to one year in prison in connection with allegations that illicit payments were made to Greek doctors to secure sales contracts. Prosecutors had recommended that John Dougall receive a much lighter sentence for his extensive cooperation in the case, which developed from company disclosures to the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission.
The following month, the Court of Appeal in London said that the SFO overstepped its authority in reaching a sentencing agreement with Dougall. The ruling raising concerns that potential whistlebowers would be reluctant to come forward.
Alderman said the SFO will continue to rely on whistleblowers, Bloomberg reported.
“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.”