Tom Epps is a partner in Brown Rudnick’s white-collar defence group in London. Tom represents senior individuals and companies facing corporate crime investigations brought by all major UK enforcement agencies. Over the past 20 years, Tom has been involved in many of the UK’s largest and most complex fraud investigations. Tom is widely recognised for his expert handling of international investigations; he is ranked in the top two bands of Chambers and Partners UK (2018) across three separate financial crime-related disciplines.
What is the most satisfying part of being a business crime lawyer?
While it’s not quite in the same league as my early career goal of opening the batting for England (which even with Alastair Cook’s recent retirement is looking unlikely) being a business crime defence lawyer is an amazing job. To be actively involved in shaping cases that are in the public eye and to be operating in an area of law that is breaking new ground week to week is very satisfying.
I am particularly proud of the high ratio of cases that the team at Brown Rudnick are involved in that result in no further action being taken by the authorities, and the relatively low profile that so many of our clients have been able to maintain. This success is noteworthy given that we are involved in the majority of SFO cases and many other hard-fought investigations.
What did you find most challenging about entering a career in white-collar crime?
When I very first qualified, there was no established white-collar crime market beyond a few very good niche firms. So in fact, one of the biggest challenges was persuading companies that regulatory and criminal enforcement was a genuine and serious risk!
How has the market changed since you started your career?
The market has changed beyond recognition. The range of business crime-related legal services available to clients both domestically and internationally are far greater now and are commensurate with the growing and heavy regulatory burden on both companies and individuals.
What is one change that you would like to see the new director of the SFO make?
It would be great to see the SFO make and communicate decisions, including the key decision on whether to charge, more swiftly. The FCA has sought to expedite their decision-making and I would welcome the SFO following suit.
What are your thoughts on the increasing use of AI in white-collar investigations?
In terms of conducting internal investigations, Brown Rudnick is firmly committed to taking advantage of AI technology for appropriate tasks in order to benefit our clients. My firm also recognises that deep analysis of key issues and careful strategic thinking is always of most value to clients and is always going to be at the heart of what we do. I am very excited by what AI could achieve, but the challenge is to make sure it is used effectively.
In relation to the increased use of AI by enforcement agencies, I think we are at the start of an important assessment of the issue. In particular, I anticipate that enforcement agencies will be critically challenged and tested as to whether they have deployed AI technology fairly, and whether they have in fact discharged their disclosure obligations and their duty to follow all reasonable lines of inquiry.
As enforcement agency budgets remain limited, I fear that there is a real danger that if left to drift, there may be an overreliance on AI by those agencies.
How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?
I envisage that my international practice will grow further still as cooperation between international enforcement agencies intensifies, particularly cooperation between the US and UK enforcement agencies. As a result, I look forward to collaborating ever more closely with our US team and finding further ways to resolve the challenges that international investigations present.
What advice would you give to a junior lawyer who one day hopes to be in your position?
I would advise them to obtain as much experience in the police station as possible as this is where most criminal cases start and a lawyer can learn the nuts and bolts of the criminal justice system. There is also a great deal to be gained from the experience of having to make decisions under pressure, and to take responsibility for those decisions thereafter. It builds both character and courage.