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News digest 4/3/16: Rise in international requests for SFO help

04 March 2016 by Henry Ker

Rise in international requests for SFO help - read more

Rise in international requests for SFO help

Requests from the international community for help from the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in fighting financial crime rose 62% last year. The increase highlights the supposed vulnerability of financial institutions based in London for money-laundering and the current prevalence of cybercrime.

According to Thomson Reuters, the SFO received 55 requests for ‘mutual legal assistance’ last year. This is a significant increase on the figures in previous years, with 34 in 2014, 25 in 2013 and 23 in 2012. The SFO only deals with the largest financial crime cases, typically involving more than £1 million, and most cases taken on involve at least one other jurisdiction.


MPs sceptical about cost savings in digital tax plans

The plan to make businesses keep records of digital tax and send quarterly updates to HMRC has drawn criticism from MPs. They claim it would be an additional burden on UK companies reporting requirements. They also expressed doubt over the alleged financial savings.

It has been suggested the move would help cut costs to businesses by £400 million a year. However Andrew Tyrie, head of the Treasury select committee, questioned these figures, stating: ‘It would be extremely surprising if such a huge aggregate saving, worth a lot to the individual business involved, had been overlooked by them’.


BBC governance should be handled by Ofcom

An independent review of the BBC’s governance and regulation suggests that the BBC’s governance should be handled entirely by media watchdog Ofcom and the BBC Trust (currently partly responsible) should be dropped.

The report states it looked at ‘the Trust model and concludes that it is flawed. It conflates governance and regulatory functions within the Trust. However re-structured, it would still leave two Boards within one organisation, with the likelihood of confused responsibilities.’

Other recommendations include a unitary board, with a majority of non-executive directors.


Public services from charities should be subject to FoI

In a report reviewing the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, the Cabinet Office has suggested FoI should apply to charities delivering public services.

It suggests charities and companies delivering more than £5 million of contracts should be required to provide information about public services carried out under those contracts. However, it does not recommend that the act’s requirements apply to all charities and this is not an official recommendation, because it was outside the original scope of the report.

EU bonus cap rules not for smaller UK banks and investment firms

The FCA and PRA have told the European Banking Authority (EBA) that they will not apply the EU bonus cap rule to smaller banks and investment companies. Despite the rule still being applied to ‘systemically important’ big banks and financial firms, the UK regulator will not extend it to all firms recommended by the EBA's guidelines.

The bonus cap currently stands at 100% of fixed pay, but can be increased to 200% with shareholder approval.

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