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New Justice Department Policy: Prosecute More Corporate Executives Involved in White-Collar Crimes

Jeff Cole
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan & Cole

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12/26/2015
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The Justice Department recently enacted a new policy to more aggressively prosecute wrongdoing employees—not just the large corporations—who are involved in white-collar crimes. These new guidelines were enacted as a result of widespread criticism that, while the Obama administration secured hefty fines against corporations involved in the housing, banking, and other corporate scandals, it did little to prosecute the corporate executives who were involved in these crises.

How the Justice Department Will Go After Execs Involved in Corporate Crimes

Under its former policy, the Justice Department targeted the corporations and only looked to individuals after negotiating a settlement with the corporation that usually involved paying high fines. This often resulted in employees not being prosecuted. In the future, corporate employees committing federal white-collar crimes could have more to worry about. Under the new policy, the Justice Department will do the following:

  • Focus on corporate employees from the beginning.
  • Only give corporations credit for cooperating with the government if they identify employees involved in the crimes and turn over evidence that would support this.
  • Try to obtain as much evidence as possible about executives before completing their investigations.

Credit for cooperating with the government can save a corporation billions in fines and can mean the difference between a civil settlement or criminal charges, so corporations could feel pressure to provide information on its executives. However, these new guidelines will not affect current investigations—including the General Motors ignition switch case. In addition, while the policy sounds tough, it is also unclear whether it will result in more corporate executives being convicted of crimes and facing jail time.

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Category: Criminal Defense

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