United Kingdom drops fraud investigation in GlaxoSmithKline, Rolls-Royce | 22 February 2019

A Rolls Royce logo is seen at the company's aerospace engineering and development site in Bristol Britain on Dec 17 2015

A Rolls Royce logo is seen at the company's aerospace engineering and development site in Bristol Britain on Dec 17 2015

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has dropped its investigations into aerospace firm Rolls-Royce and drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline.

But the conclusion of the investigations raises pertinent questions about the goal of DPAs, and whether companies will be more likely to co-operate in the future with an increasingly poor SFO prosecution rate.

But a parallel investigation into individuals associated with Rolls-Royce, and the inquiry into GlaxoSmithKline and its subsidiaries, which began in 2014 shortly after the drugs group was fined 3 billion yuan (343 million pounds) in China for paying bribes to doctors to use its drugs, had made little progress.

Lisa Osofsky, director of the SFO, declared there was either "insufficient evidence" or it was "not in the public interest" to continue with the cases.

The firm said it would not be commenting on Friday's decision, beyond saying it was cooperating fully with the authorities following the 2017 deal. The SFO has been facing political scrutiny over the collapse of a number of long-running cases.

"In his 2017 DPA judgment, Sir Brian Leveson, President of the Queen's Bench Division, stated that the investigation revealed the most serious breaches of the criminal law in the areas of bribery and corruption, some of which implicated senior management and, on the face of it, controlling minds of the company".

In Thailand's case, an SFO report two years ago showed Thai government officials had received Rolls Royce bribes to buy the firm's engines.

Virgin-backed Connect Airways completes Stobart Air, Flybe acquisitions
The FTSE 250 firm also confirmed that the agreement under which it disposed of its entire holding in Propius had also become unconditional.

The SFO's decision to close the Rolls-Royce and GSK investigations follow another recent decision that resulted in no prosecution.

The decision to halt the probes follows a major setback in the Tesco criminal prosecution: in the last few months, former executives John Scouler, Chris Bush and Carl Rogberg were all acquitted of fraud charges.

He added that courts might in future be less willing to grant DPAs, noting that the supporting evidence was now viewed by the SFO as being insufficient to pursue a prosecution against the individuals. "The SFO is then failing to secure convictions against those employees, or not even bringing charges against them".

The SFO said that following "a detailed review of the available evidence and an assessment of the public interest there will be no prosecution in this case".

"This case calls into question whether the SFO was correct to offer Rolls Royce a DPA", he added.

It was rewarded with a DPA, requiring it to pay nearly £500 million.

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