Serious Fraud Office

US-headquartered law firms are stepping up their demand for former prosecutors of corruption on both sides of the Atlantic in response to the steadily increasing number and profile of investigations by US and UK authorities.

K&L Gates is hiring a former lawyer at the UK’s Serious Fraud Office to bolster the firm’s white-collar defence team in London.

Sasi-Kanth Mallela, who left the SFO in January, will join K&L Gates as a special counsel, said people familiar with his appointment.

Mr Mallela was the head lawyer on a team at the SFO investigating allegations of fraud and bribery in Kazakhstan and Africa at ENRC, the mining company that delisted from the London stock market in November.

His appointment follows that of Charles Duross, the chief of the foreign bribery unit at the US Department of Justice, who left to join Morrison & Foerster to lead its global anti-corruption practice in late January. Mr Duross helped write the US government’s treatise on foreign bribery published in 2012.

The DoJ fined companies almost $2bn under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act during Mr Duross’s four-year stint as head of the FCPA unit.

Meanwhile, Adam Safwat, a deputy chief in the DoJ’s fraud section who worked on a number of foreign bribery cases while a prosecutor, has this week announced he will join Weil Gotshal & Manges in Washington.

Such specialisation has helped bolster the practices of law firms which hire former government officials. Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison hired Mark Mendelsohn, the prosecutor credited with creating the current model of the DoJ’s FCPA enforcement, and has won lucrative assignments, including representing JPMorganChase in the criminal and civil investigation into its hiring practices in Asia.

Other firms are hoping for similar high-profile instructions as investigations into overseas corruption increase, and the UK begins to use US-style enforcement techniques.

From the end of this month, the SFO will be able to deploy deferred prosecution agreements. DPAs are US-style deals whereby a company pays a hefty fine and agrees to overhaul its compliance systems in exchange for prosecutors suspending criminal charges. They are seen as an essential complement to the UK Bribery Act, which came into force in 2011, and overhauled Britain’s antiquated corruption laws, putting them on a par with the FCPA.

The introduction of the legislation also sparked interest among US law firms in former SFO lawyers, with Covington & Burling, Kirkland & Ellis and McGuireWoods all hiring former prosecutors from the agency.

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