City white collar partners tip former FBI deputy general counsel as new SFO director

With chief operating officer Mark Thompson installed as interim director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), a new name has emerged as a potential successor to David Green QC, who stepped down after six years at the watchdog’s helm last week.

Three City white collar partners with links to the SFO, including one former SFO lawyer, have suggested that Lisa Osofsky – EMEA leader and head of investigations at regulatory compliance company Exiger and former deputy GC at the FBI – could be in line for the role.

The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) confirmed two weeks ago that a full-time successor to Green had been appointed, but did not reveal the new director’s identity. Thompson, who joined the SFO in 2004, has taken up the role on an interim basis as the individual in question was not able to take up the post immediately.

Osofsky, who is based in Exiger’s London office, is an American national, and was previously a regulatory adviser at global risk consultancy Control Risks. Before that she was executive director of the business intelligence group at Goldman Sachs International, while she also spent about five years at the FBI, serving as deputy GC and ethics officer.

She already has experience of working at the SFO, having been seconded to the UK watchdog while working as a special attorney in the fraud section of the criminal division of the US Department of Justice.

White & Case London white collar head Jonathan Pickworth, who acts for companies being investigated by the SFO, said: “Based on the SFO’s press release, and putting all the pieces of the jigsaw together, it makes sense. Lisa ticks a lot of boxes; she is extremely capable and has very broad experience, including time spent at the FBI and at a major financial institution. Additionally, her US connections may well help to enhance relations with the US authorities.

“She has made some comments in the past in favour of rolling the SFO into the National Crime Agency (NCA) and I hope that if she is appointed, it does not end up reopening that whole debate.”

Osofsky voiced her approval of Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to integrate the SFO into the NCA last year, telling The Telegraph that the SFO has been on a “knife-edge for years”.

Corker Binning founding partner David Corker, who has acted for many clients being investigated or prosecuted by the SFO, said: “I think the SFO remains in jeopardy, and I think this appointment would be an indication of its jeopardy.

“Her background signifies to me that she comes from a largely US enforcement background, so she will be steeped in the tradition of client/lawyer privilege. David Green was a sceptic of that, as can be seen by ongoing cases. I would imagine that she will also be very IT-savvy when it comes to saving resources.”

Prior to Thompson’s appointment as interim director, a number of internal candidates had been tipped as potential successors to Green, including SFO GC Alun Milford and joint head of bribery Matthew Wagstaff, although the interim arrangement suggests the new director will be an external appointment. External candidates tipped by market sources include Kingsley Napley criminal litigation head Stephen Parkinson, who was previously deputy head of the AGO.

An AGO spokesperson said: “An announcement on the recruitment of a new director of the SFO will be made in due course.” The SFO declined to comment. Osofsky was contacted for comment.