News

At last……

November 14 2018

2,185 days after he was convicted of two counts of fraud by abuse of position at Southwark Crown Court on 20th November 2012 after a 10-week trial, and despite a shamelessly self-pitying and self-justifying campaign to avoid the consequences of his actions, Adoboli has finally been deported to his home country, Ghana.

The wheels of British justice grind exceedingly slow but they do – eventually – get there.

Let’s put those 2,185 days into a bit of perspective.

  • Amount of money lost by his fraudulent trading: US$2,500,000,000.  (If the sums spent by UBS on remediation and dealing with the consequences of this loss were added in, the totals would be truly eye-watering.)
  • Days spent on remand before his trial: 267
  • Days spent by my team and others working on the investigation: 438
  • Sentence: 7 years or 2,556 days
  • Time actually spent in prison following his sentence: 946

As the City of London Police said following his conviction: “This was the UK’s biggest fraud, committed by one of the most sophisticated fraudsters the City of London Police has ever come across.”  The trial judge, Mr Justice Keith, admirably summed up his character when he described him as a gambler, arrogant and in denial and said that he was: “profoundly unselfconscious” of his own failings.

But despite his masterly conduct of the trial, Mr Justice Keith did not explain in his sentencing remarks why what Adoboli did was so wrong, why fraud – of any type – is so damaging and this lacuna is perhaps symptomatic of our failure to take fraud as seriously as we should, as some other countries do.  After all, if the UK’s biggest fraud does not result in the maximum sentence, what will?

Fraud is too often seen as a victimless or somewhat technical crime or, perhaps more accurately, the victims, especially institutions, are seen as unsympathetic and partly responsible for their plight.  After all, who cares if an arrogant bank loses some money.  They are not like some naive widow conned out of her life savings.  Who gets hurt, really?

But the damage that fraud does is not the loss of money, bad as that can be.  Nor is it even the damage to reputation – and that can be very bad indeed and much more long-lasting than most think.

Fraud is damaging because it is so corrosive of the trust that is the essence of banking, that is – or should be – at the heart of any working environment, at the heart of any good relationship with colleagues, bosses, clients, the public, at the heart of any well-functioning community.  Fraud breaks those bonds of trust.  When someone is trusted and they let you down by lying, by cheating, by taking advantage, by behaving like Adoboli did, like many other fraudsters have done, real people are hurt.  Worse – the very idea of having confidence – in the institution, in your colleagues, in banking as a dependable underpinning of our society – is damaged and takes time to rebuild.  A fraudster does not just destroy their own reputation.  Their actions chip away at the reputation of everyone else in their sector.  And they make it just that bit harder for those people – however good, however hard-working, however trustworthy – to be trusted by others, by the public.

That is the real harm that fraud does.  We would do well to take it more seriously than we do.

 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Women in Investigations – 2018

July 24 2018

GIR Profile

I have been honoured to be chosen as one of Global Investigation Review’s 100 Women in Investigations globally for 2018.  Attached is my profile published on GIR’s website.

Enjoy!

 

  • In my first proper job as a government lawyer I uncovered some illegal behaviour. When I brought it to people’s attention, some were not best pleased but I persevered and the problem was eventually put right. That really got me the investigative bug. I realised that my legal skills, natural curiosity and a bloody-minded determination not to give up could form the basis of an interesting career.
  • The biggest change I have noticed is the development of electronic media, which far outstrips peoples’ willingness to understand that their thoughtless or instantaneous tweet or chat can be retrieved. It’s a goldmine for investigators and a nightmare, given its scale.
  • There have been many highlights in my career but so many are still confidential that I cannot say more about them, other than some have left me exasperated at what idiocies people are capable of.
  • The standout case was the UK’s biggest fraud prosecution of Kweku Adoboli for fraud by abuse of position in 2012.The 14 months I was involved in it, from the first day to when he was convicted, were one of the most intense and fascinating periods of my career. I learned so much, and it was immensely satisfying to be able to work with police, prosecutors, colleagues and my marvellous team to get to the right result.
  • I was a litigator in Slaughter and May at a time when it was building up its litigation practice and Big Bang happened. The combination meant that I got to work on, and have a lot of responsibility for, a lot of cases, many of them involving the financial sector. Money makes people behave in the most irrational of ways and the stories you learn are endlessly fascinating.
  • The biggest barrier was – sometimes – having bosses who did not really understand or appreciate what I was doing and why it mattered. When you’re trying to build a practice, deliver tough messages and get the necessary resources, that’s not helpful. It took the very public explosion of a lot of scandals at the same time for people to realise why good, thorough investigations matter and what you can learn from them. It’s a lesson still being learned by some today!
  • I want those I work with to feel that, when the bullets are whizzing overhead, there is no-one they want more on their side than me – that they can trust and depend on me
  • The worst advice I received is that you will be rewarded for your hard work. No, you won’t! Not unless you make the case for what you do, its value and the value you bring to your clients. Work is not like school exams where you get the marks if you get the right answer. You need to be your own entrepreneur and sell yourself.
  • The best advice I have received is “do not be afraid”.
  • The biggest talking point in UK investigations is how to balance the need for a thorough investigation with the need to do so swiftly, so that lessons can be learned, matters remedied, wrongdoers punished and public trust rebuilt at the time, and not years later.
  • Having role models to talk to and learn from, and realising that women’s careers should not end or be diverted into the sidelines when they have a family, can help create gender equality. Children grow up and there can be another 20 years or more when you have much to give. Firms need to harness those skills and experience and not sideline women during those middle years when they are balancing work and family but see that time as investment in people who will be the senior trusted advisers of tomorrow.
  • As a teenager I beat Daniel Day-Lewis in an acting competition. My Juliet was to die for. He is now a three time Oscar-winner, and I am here. Sometimes life doesn’t quite go to plan!
  • Sitting in Istanbul’s Central Criminal Court, representing my client defrauded of a significant amount of money by a terrified looking defendant, sandwiched between two tough-looking Turkish policemen, was about as exotic a place as my work has taken me to. But when not working, I explored Istanbul, which remains one of my favourite cities.

 

Catching fraudsters

May 14 2018

Delighted to have contributed to – and be quoted in – this interesting feature article in this week’s Law Gazette on the various new ways in which law enforcement, regulators and government agencies are trying to crack down on the UK’s most common crime – fraud.