Late last month it was announced that The Serious Fraud Office ("the SFO") have entered into their third successful Deferred Prosecution Agreement ("DPA") since the introduction of the agreement. This most recent DPA relates to an investigation into Rolls Royce for corruption and bribery offences.

Overall, Rolls Royce agreed to pay £671 million following the SFO investigation, and admitted to 12 counts of bribery and corruption allegations. Despite this result, the SFO have confirmed that they are now looking into prosecuting individuals for offences related to the original company transgressions. The SFO has confirmed it is also looking at further proceedings against other connected companies. As the Director of the SFO commented, the agreement of the Court to the DPA "shows the SFO has teeth" - something that Rolls Royce can attest to.

The obvious consequence of the agreement of this latest DPA is that the SFO are a serious investigatory and prosecutorial body. They now have a demonstrable track record in tackling very large defendant organisations, and are more than capable at managing and progressing cases that span multiple years.

To most businesses, the thought of having a criminal investigation, and potentially prosecution hanging over them for years is both a worry, and a substantial risk. Penalties for breaching regulations of all forms are on the rise, as is the prosecution of directors and senior managers in their personal capacity. So what can companies and senior managers do to avoid coming under the scrutiny of the SFO, or any other regulator?

Fundamentally, corporate entities are under a duty to have proper procedures in place to prevent bribery related offences occurring where possible. These systems should be backed by internal reviews, which are the best way to determine whether or not internal processes and procedures are working. Failure to have these procedures in place can lead to an otherwise innocent and unaware business being found guilty.