A former FBI lawyer who has pursued the mafia, bank robbers and corrupt financiers has been named as the new head of the Serious Fraud Office.
Lisa Osofsky, who has dual US and British nationality, has prosecuted more than 100 cases for the US government during a 30-year career. Osofsky will take up the SFO role in September.
She has been working in the private sector for more than a decade, with spells at the business intelligence group Control Risks, the investment bank Goldman Sachs and most recently the financial crime consultancy Exiger.
Osofsky worked on the monitoring of HSBC, after the bank signed a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice and was forced to pay a record $1.9bn (£1.2bn) to settle allegations it allowed terrorists to move money around the financial system.
She is said by a colleague to be “classic silk glove, iron fist” and an expert on cases of money laundering.
News of the appointment, which was widely expected, comes after the SFO said last month that its funding would rise by around 50% this year, helping it to take on bigger cases.
However, questions over its future have lingered and Osofsky’s appointment drew a guarded welcome from white-collar crime lawyers, some of whom had interpreted previous comments as an endorsement of Theresa May’s plan to roll the SFO into a broader National Crime Agency (NCA).
Louise Hodges, the head of criminal litigation at the law firm Kingsley Napley, said: “This is a novel appointment for the SFO. Lisa Osofsky is not one of the usual establishment faces, so will bring new insight and fresh thinking to the organisation, which has just celebrated its 30 year anniversary.
“Her prosecution experience in the US signals someone with a pedigree as a tough prosecutor but also someone from a jurisdiction where dialogue with defence lawyers and deferred prosecution agreements are intrinsic to the system.”
Robert Amaee, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, added:“There’s little doubt that Lisa’s appointment cements the continuing strengthening of the relationship between the SFO and the US white collar law enforcement agencies. We are certain to see more SFO enforcement in coordination and cooperation with its US counterparts.
“She’s also recently put to rest speculation that she intends to oversee the merger of the SFO into the NCA. She’s been unambiguous in her support of an SFO, independent from but closely coordinated with the NCA – that could herald quite a powerful combination of intelligence and expertise.”
The SFO’s last previous permanent director, David Green, ended a six-year stint in April, when the agency’s chief operating officer, Mark Thompson, became interim director until a new director started.
The Guardian | June 5, 2018