Corporate criminal responsibility – how private detectives can help

corporate criminal responsibility interview panel

There’s been an increasing focus on company bosses, from Sir Philip Green’s knighthood being questioned to The Director of the Serious Fraud Office, David Green CB QC, calling for corporate criminal responsibility and a new corporate offence of ‘failing to prevent economic crime’ in 2014.

As a result, many companies are calling for more support in assessing whether they may be liable for any corporate misdemeanours undertaken by employees. There’s a real concern on two levels:

  • Due diligence – employers are increasingly concerned to ensure their staff have the qualifications they claim, and even to be sure that they are who they claim to be, such as undertaking ‘right to work’ checks as required under UK law. At we’ve seen a large increase in our workload of checking CVs and conducting background checks into decision makers being hired into UK businesses.
  • International working – where companies have suppliers, partners or branches overseas they are often finding that they have to engage a private investigator to ensure that they can trust those they are working with, when face-to-face engagement is impossible. Private detectives like have extensive resources to help them conduct background research and even surveillance to make sure that their clients aren’t being ripped off, or worse, used as a front for corrupt activity.

The concern with corruption, money laundering and tax evasion has become a major legal development since the Criminal Finances Bill was introduced to the House of Commons last month. It aims to expand corporate criminal liability by:

  1. Creating a criminal offence for corporations who fail to stop their staff indulging in or assisting tax evasion.
  2. Deepening Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) to target organisations that carry out money laundering and to provide the National Crime Agency (NCA) with new powers to investigate
  3. Improving the ability of law enforcement agencies and courts to recover criminal assets, especially in cases of grand corruption.

This could mean, for example, that a business could be responsible for tax evasion if it failed to take reasonable to steps to prevent that behaviour by employees, subsidiaries and even agents acting on its behalf!

It’s no wonder that our casebook is increasingly filled with SMEs who want to be sure that business partners, suppliers and agents are exactly who they claim to be, and businesses both large and small seeking certainty about the history, qualifications and experience of candidates seeking employment, to have confidence that they can place their business reputation in the hands of their new employees.