The Conservatives would set up an Economic Crime Agency to replace the Serious Fraud Office and take over responsibilities from other regulators, including the FSA and the Office of Fair Trading.
The Tories say the new body would toughen up the Government’s stance on white-collar crime by taking on the powers and responsibilities held by the SFO, the FSA, the Fraud Prosecution Service, the Revenue & Customs division and the Office of Fair Trading.
Under the proposals, companies would be made liable for the actions of rogue traders and fraudsters working within the firm. Currently, companies can claim innocence of crimes perpetrated by employees.
The Conservatives have already pledged to scrap the FSA if they win power, replacing it with a consumer protection agency to regulate IFAs, with prudential regulation passed to the Bank of England.
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne told The Sunday Telegraph: “We are very, very bad at prosecuting white-collar crime. We have six different Government departments, eight different agencies, a complete alphabet soup and the result is that these crimes go unpunished. There is £30bn-worth of fraud taking place in the British economy each year.
“Frankly, robbing someone of their pension through some con is almost as bad as mugging them in the street. But because it is a crime that takes place behind a computer screen or at the end of a telephone, it does not get followed up and prosecuted.”
Lansons public affairs director Ralph Jackson says: “On the face of it, a simplification measure of this type seems sensible. But there have to be practical question marks around the considerations of timing and cost. Transferring the responsibilities of eight agencies into one is going to take time and as this is about targeting firms rather than individuals, there will inevitably be a period of consultation and phasing.”