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  • Writer's pictureMichelle de Kluyver

With ambitions to build its workforce, incentivise whistle-blowers and become a more proactive player in domestic fraud enforcement, is the SFO's latest strategy game-changing?

Serious Fraud Office (SFO)

Under the leadership of its newly appointed director, Nick Ephgrave QPM, the SFO's recent publication of its five-year strategy presents a clear roadmap for the agency. Ephgrave, who brings a wealth of law enforcement experience to the role, has outlined a pragmatic, action-oriented approach. The SFO has announced a series of new fraud investigations, a number commencing with 'dawn raids'. According to Ephgrave, this approach drives momentum in investigations. He has also initiated a review of the existing caseload to focus resources on those most likely to result in successful prosecution.


Commenting on the new strategy, Ephgrave highlighted the damaging impact of domestic fraud, bribery and corruption on the UK's reputation and the financial wellbeing of its taxpayers. The strategy itself suggests a rebalancing of domestic and international cases, after the introduction of DPAs tipped the scale in favour of more complex international bribery cases. This shift could help the SFO to achieve its commitment of delivering faster justice, but the question is where it will leave the agency on the global stage.  It may be that the UK's other main enforcement agency, the Crown Prosecution Service, will assume a broader role in this area.  The current position is unclear.


Ephgrave has also signalled that he is in favour of incentivising whistleblowers, which is a controversial topic in the UK. In a recent speech, Ephgrave pointed to both the US model and the reluctance, in the UK, to make use of the UK provisions for co-operating witnesses as reasons for change.


The strategy also acknowledges the need to attract and retain a highly specialised workforce, returning to this long-standing barrier in public sector law enforcement. The SFO has faced criticism for talent retention, and the strategy places workforce development at its core. The challenge for Ephgrave will be to realise these ambitions in a highly competitive market driven by financial crime risk.



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