The Serious Fraud Office has appointed former FBI lawyer Lisa Osofsky as its new director.
The barrister has stressed that she will be leading the SFO as an independent organisation, after she previously supported a plan for the non-ministerial government department to be subsumed by the National Crime Agency.
Osofsky, a dual UK-US citizen who has previously completed a secondment at the SCO, will take up the post for a five-year term in September.
She takes over from interim director Mark Thompson, who will return to his role as chief operating officer at the SFO. The last permanent director, David Green, stepped down in April.
Osofsky has 30 years’ experience in the field of financial crime in the UK and the US. She began her career as a federal prosecutor in Chicago, pursuing white collar crime including benefit fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and drug conspiracy – and has prosecuted more than 100 cases on behalf of the US government.
She served for five years as deputy general counsel and ethics officer at the FBI, and three years as money laundering reporting officer at Goldman Sachs International. Currently, she works in the London office of global financial services company Exiger, where she leads on investigative, compliance and assurance activities.
The appointment was made by the attorney general Jeremy Wright. In an announcement welcoming Osofsky to the role he stressed that tackling economic crime is a priority for the government, and that the SFO would remain independent – despite a 2017 Conservative party manifesto proposal to fold the office into the NCA.
“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 UK and international authorities to best protect the public,” Wright said.
He added that Osofsky’s experience working at an international level would enhance the SFO’s capabilities in working across national boundaries.
Last month the SFO announced changes to its funding arrangements, including a rise of 50% to its core funding to help it take on large cases that cannot be predicted and budgeted for in advance. For 2018-19, the organisation’s core funding will increase from £34.3m, as originally planned, to £52.7m.
Commenting on her appointment, Osofsky said she was honoured to take on the role. “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 added.
Osofsky previously told the Daily Telegraph last year that a merger would give the prime minister “the biggest bang for her buck”, bit following her appointment said: “I’ve always supported an independent SFO and I still support an independent SFO. I’m assured by the attorney-general he’s right by my side on this one. I didn’t take this job to report to the NCA."
She told the Times the policy had now been abandoned.
An advertisement for the job, which commands a £180,000 salary, was placed in December, and the long delay in announcing the successful candidate prompted some anti-corruption campaigners, including Corruption Watch, to express concerns about the appointments process.
In a blogpost on its website the organisation said: “Corruption Watch is concerned that the long delay in announcing the new director suggests the process for appointing a new director of the SFO is not as independent as it should be.”
It called on the attorney general to review the recruitment process and ensure it was free from political interference. The SFO director must be able to “take on the cases involving big politically connected companies without fear or favour”, it added.