On 23 April 2012, David Green CB QC started his 4 year term as Director of the Serious Fraud Office. The opening line to his press release, "The SFO is here to stay” warns of a key battle during his tenure; survival of the SFO. The original coalition government’s plans to create an Economic Crime Agency have fallen by the wayside, but whilst the SFO has been concentrating on diverting cases away from the criminal courts with plea agreements and civil settlements, the Financial Services Authority and City of London Police have blazed a trail for conducting complex criminal investigations and prosecutions, potentially putting the SFO in their shadow. In addition, the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate is conducting a review of the SFO to determine the “effectiveness of the SFO in order to assess future priorities and current best practice”. The signs are ominous.
David Green is more of a traditional criminal prosecutor than his predecessor; however it is clear that he will want to build on the trend to encourage companies to investigate their own corporate wrong doing and self report. It is predicted that legislation for US-style Deferred Prosecution Agreements will be brought in soon to strengthen the SFOs abilities to settle with corporate entities whilst pursuing individuals in criminal prosecutions.
However, perhaps the most immediate challenge for David Green will also be the fallout from the Tchenguiz investigation. A successful challenge to the use of search powers is being followed by a judicial review of the use of powers of arrest, where the SFO have already been described as demonstrating "sheer incompetence" by the judge.