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Dawn raids... a new dawn?

The Serious Fraud Office, led by its new director, is clearly looking to expedite investigations as a result of a refreshed approach to dawn raids. These visits by law enforcement are highly stressful events which require cool heads and ample preparation in advance.  

Some might have previously argued that the risks of facing a dawn raid had become vanishingly small. It appears that any such comfort can no longer be given to corporates. The SFO has seemingly decided to flex its investigatory muscles and make a clear statement to those who might have something to hide - it has launched as many dawn raids in the last three months as it had in the last three years. 

It remains to be seen if this “big bang” will continue. However, any significant organisation would do well to consider taking preparatory steps in anticipation of the SFO making an unannounced visit. These might include:

  • A visit by lawyers to the corporate to assist with practical steps such as a “holding room” for investigators. 
  • Taking advice on the breadth of powers available to law enforcement and regulators and the consequences of not complying with valid legal requests. 
  • The preparation of a practical “dawn raid” policy. 
  • “Ready reckoners” for receptionists, security, IT staff, in-house legal, management and directors so that they understand what they must do and must not do, quickly, to mitigate against negative outcomes.  
  • Guidance for those tasked with “shadowing” any investigators. 
  • A mock demo of a dawn raid with feedback given thereafter to feed in improvements.   

SFO director Nick Ephgrave, in his first public speech earlier this month, stated that the SFO has 'already gone through more front doors in the last three months than in the last three years'.

He added: ‘This provides momentum to the investigation, it gets people in an interview room, you look them in the eye and start asking questions, put them under some pressure, search the house, crack the evidence.’

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