Meaby & Co – Solicitors Specialising in Serious Business Fraud
What is serious fraud?
Serious Fraud is the use of illegal means to obtain money, assets, or other property owned or held by an individual, organisation, financial institution.
Serious fraud and financial crimes are being actively pursued by prosecutors and regulators. Meaby & Co has dealt with many high profile investigations and prosecutions.
We regularly prosecute cases which feature the following characteristics:-
- Director / Employee Fraud
- Money Laundering
- Financial Fraud such as credit, insurance, tax and invoice duplication
- Tender Contract Fraud
- Bribery and Corruption
- Land Fraud
Private Prosecutions can act as a catalyst to procure two outcomes, both of which are attractive to companies who have been victims of fraud.
Firstly, a private prosecution acts as a deterrent aimed at reducing the likelihood that a similar act will occur within the company. Secondly, it can result in substantial recovery of monies lost as a result of the fraud.
What should I do if I believe I have uncovered fraud in my organisation?
If you believe you have discovered acts that may be fraudulent you need to act quickly, employees should inform their HR department. Partners, directors or shareholders need to inform their fellow partners or directors as soon as possible and take appropriate legal advice.
Following the discovery of a business fraud, the actual stolen money or assets could be just the tip of the iceberg. Other, often unforeseen problems are likely to result from the betrayal of trust including:
- Possible Criminal and/or Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigations into the business and more importantly you personally.
- Personal claims against your personal assets including your own home.
- An inability to pay staff, suppliers, tax and pension funds
- Loss of trust from both consumers and suppliers
- Loss of staff morale and productivity
- Massive Stress
- The possible end of the brand you have spent so long building
Manage the situation
Before confronting the suspected fraudster, you need to think rationally and take all steps necessary to protect the business. From this point forward what is needed is a clear strategy.
Steps that your lawyer will advise you about include:
- Taking control of the businesses finances: for example you may need to cancel debit and credit cards
- Alerting suppliers/customers
- Your own duties as a director
- Reporting this matter to the Police/ SFO
- Bringing a claim for breach of fiduciary duty/fraud/embezzlement
Does there need to be an internal investigation?
Yes is the short answer.
If fraud has been identified, it is vitally important for a company or partners to take advice from its lawyers. Any subsequent investigation process should be immediate, impartial, clear, recorded, documented and agreed upon before it is undertaken.
Executing the investigation in line with the agreed process is vital, especially if the matter is to be reported to the SFO or to the police as it will help reduce the risk of evidence being lost or destroyed.
You must always be aware of the need to protect yourself and the business at the same time as getting to the bottom of the fraud.
In cases where the fraud identified is so serious and complex the company may not have the resources or expertise to investigate adequately. At this point the board may also consider self-reporting to the SFO, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or other relevant agency.
How do I report the fraud?
Once the extent of the fraud has been ascertained you must report it to the authorities. You will also need to speak to your insurance company. They can offer you advice and will work with the police to process any claims you make as a result of the fraud.
Serious or complex fraud, including bribery and corruption will be dealt with by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Will this go to court?
Your solicitor will work through the options available to you. If the SFO has been informed and criminal proceedings are being brought then the process is out of your control.
The options for suing for damages include:
- Litigation – Bringing a claim at Court
- Alternative Disputes Resolution such as mediation (although the negative state of the relationship between yourself and the fraudulent partner may prevent this from being successful)
- Working with a 3rd party such as the Official Receiver (in the case of insolvency)
- Injunctions can also be sought to stop your business partner carrying out certain commercial activities.
- You may also be forced to defend claims that are brought by suppliers, employees, creditors and customers.
For further advice or if you believe you have uncovered fraudulent behaviour please contact us today. You can call on 020 7703 5034 or if you prefer please complete the form below.