Reed Smith's Patrick Rappo is recognised by sources as “impressive and on the ball” when it comes to bribery, corruption, money laundering and fraud.
Patrick’s practice covers proactive compliance program design, conducting complex investigations, undertaking remediation, and dealing with regulators. He has been involved in several high-profile investigations and prosecutions, including the FCA’s first ever prosecution of a company for breaching anti-money laundering regulations and the Serious Fraud Office’s [SFO] largest criminal trial involving a company. Prior to moving into private practice, Patrick was joint head of the bribery and corruption divisions at the SFO.
Describe your career to date.
I have been very fortunate. Coming from a working class, single parent family, I was the first to consider the law. Scholarships, student grants, and support from mentors helped me get to Oxford and then become a criminal law specialist barrister. From there I moved into public service at the Serious Fraud Office, as joint head of the bribery and corruption divisions. Along with numerous outstanding colleagues, I was involved in changes to corporate self-reporting processes and introducing deferred prosecution agreements into UK law. I then transferred to private practice, game keeper turned poacher, where I now act as a trusted advisor to clients and boards of companies, assisting with their criminal, regulatory, and reputation management issues. However, I also undertake individual representations. I do a broad mix of work, encompassing fraud, money laundering, bribery and corruption, tax evasion, and sanctions. I am excited to have recently joined the partnership at Reed Smith.
Why did you choose to move to Reed Smith?
Where do I start - The leadership? The culture? Diversity and inclusivity at all levels? The international footprint? The opportunity to work with renowned companies on multiple issues across the globe? So many to choose from! In addition, the biggest draws for me are the people and clients – it’s a great place to work, the collaboration across offices and departments is second to none, and the sheer depth of industry knowledge and focus on client needs, to ensure the best outcomes, is outstanding.
What challenges are posed by conducting investigations across multiple jurisdictions?
International investigations can be a minefield, with a multitude of issues: dealing with whistle-blowers, reputation management, social media, extraction and transfer of data, conduct of interviews, language and cultural sensitivities, disclosures to authorities, and how to stop escalating costs, to name but a few.
Companies often fall into the trap of not being adequately prepared, dealing with matters too slowly, or without adequate input and support.
The best time to prepare for an investigation is when you don’t have an investigation:
- create a well-designed international investigation protocol,
- have your media team and lawyers on standby,
- scope out the issues early,
- plan thoroughly,
- ensure you have an audit trail for decision making, and
- expect the unexpected!
What is the key to training younger practitioners in the field to ensure their future success, especially in a more virtual world with less office time?
The Bar and the legal profession have changed markedly since I was a trainee, but nonetheless much more must be done to encourage a wider range of people to not only join the profession, but to stay, and thrive. It can still appear to be an exclusive club: pale, male, and Oxbridge dominated. We must increase diversity and inclusivity, adopt alternative working arrangements, enable people to have families, take career breaks, support them to help them succeed, and facilitate a proper work life balance. Without mentoring and coaching I would probably never even have applied.
How have frauds become more sophisticated over the past five years, and how do you think they could evolve in the near future?
Technology has had a huge impact on the ability to defraud people more easily, e.g. very sophisticated phishing emails, hyperlinks for the unwary, social media scams. Technology has also made it easier to hide ill-gotten gains, with monies disappearing via off-shore jurisdictions, unnamed or numbered accounts, crypto-currency. From a corporate perspective, there are likely to be even more data hacks, misuse of personal data, reputational risks. However, generative AI, including “deep fakes” poses one of the most significant risks, for companies and individuals alike, making data security an imperative.
To what extent do you see a need to reform current laws for them to be in pace with the growing sophistication of cybercrime?
Legal change is important, but often can’t keep pace with criminals, and is only one part of the solution. Companies can improve their data security, they can also have policies and procedures in place to prohibit crimes, and to detect them. However, government also plays a role - a recent House of Lords report stated that fraud made up 41 percent of all crime against individuals in England, but only 1 percent of law enforcement is focussed on economic crime – more resource must be dedicated to combatting fraud.
What is the most complex fraud litigation you have worked on during your career to date?
I tend to do a broad mix of work, encompassing fraud, bribery and corruption, sanctions, tax evasion, and money laundering. Much of it is international, involving multiple regulators and complex money trails. One of the most factually and legally complex cases was the SFO investigation and prosecution of a bank and four of its senior directors for an alleged fraud on the market. This was the only case brought against a corporate for issues arising out of the financial crisis of 2008, and the highest value corporate fraud case brought to trial by the SFO to date. It involved novel regulatory issues on what should be reported to the market, redefined the legal meaning of when a corporate could be found criminally liable for the actions of its employees, and had appearances in the Crown Court, High Court, and the Court of Appeal. Eventually, after much hard labour, and the end of the second trial, the jury acquitted all the defendants.
What goals do you want to achieve in the next five years?
Being an idealist at heart, I entered the law in order to make a difference, and I hope that I can assist companies and individuals handle the rampant levels of fraud, corruption and cyber-crime that they face.
In terms of Reed Smith, I want to develop the team into the go-to team for white collar criminal defence and investigations.
On a personal level I’d like to win the Tour de France. But hey, two out of three ain’t bad?