Ex-Goldman Lawyer Tasked With Salvation of U.K.'s Fraud Office

(Bloomberg) -- Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and FBI lawyer Lisa Osofsky was named as the new boss of the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office as the embattled U.K. white-collar crime prosecutor looks beyond attempts by Prime Minister Theresa May to shut it down.

The Harvard Law School graduate, who begins a five-year term at the SFO in September, once advised Goldman Sachs bankers and managers on money laundering, fraud and regulatory risk.

The appointment comes at a period of political uncertainty for the authority. Prime Minister May’s party last year said it wanted to subsume the SFO into the National Crime Agency police squad, before poor election results weakened her too much to see it through. The next political challenge will be how the U.K. balances going after corporate crooks with a need for more investment in the age of Brexit.

"Osofsky takes over at a critical time in the SFO’s history," Christopher David, a white collar crime lawyer for WilmerHale, said by email. "Not only are there significant outstanding charging decisions to be taken, but she will have to navigate the SFO through uncertain domestic and European post-Brexit political winds."

‘Emboldened SFO’

Osofsky said she’s “honored” to be the SFO’s next director. "I look forward to building on the SFO’s successful record in the fight against economic crime and leading an emboldened SFO to even greater heights,” she said.

She joins the SFO from a post as regional head of investigations at global governance, risk and compliance firm Exiger in London.

"The SFO will continue to undertake crucial work to investigate and prosecute serious and complex economic crime, as an independent body that works closely and collaboratively with other U.K. and international authorities to best protect the public," Attorney-General Jeremy Wright said in a statement.

Osofsky takes over an agency tasked with targeting the top tier of white collar crime, but with a core budget of 36 million pounds ($48 million) and about 400 employees comprised mostly of lawyers, investigators and accountants, 30 years into its existence. Much of its early years were characterized by missteps and political interference.

Osofsky replaces David Green, who had bolstered the SFO’s reputation through a string of high-profile investigations and trials. Those include the conviction of Tom Hayes, a ring-leader in the Libor rate-rigging scandal, fraud charges against a former Barclays Plc head, and a settlement with jet engine maker Rolls-Royce Plc. Green left in April and leaving Chief Operating Officer Mark Thompson as interim head until Osofsky takes over.

Her other roles include a stint as the FBI’s deputy general counsel and ethics officer and a special attorney in the Fraud Section of U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

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