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DOJ’s Revised Corporate Crime Policies Are a Modest Step Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced a set of updates to its policies on corporate crime. Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, released the following statement:

“Today’s corporate crime policy announcement is a modest step forward when a great leap is required.

“Corporate crime – in the form of illegal pollution, fraud, reckless endangerment of consumers and workers, cartels, systematic rip-offs and more – remains rampant, but corporate criminal prosecutions are at historically low levels. Public Citizen has demonstrated that federal corporate criminal prosecutions now stand at less than half the average rate of the past quarter century.

“At the same time, the DOJ continues to enter into corporate leniency agreements (deferred and non-prosecution agreements), declining to prosecute corporations in exchange for promises not to break the law in the future. Virtually unknown 25 years ago, these leniency agreements now resolve roughly a quarter of corporate crime cases.

“Against this backdrop, we applaud Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco for committing the department to tougher corporate criminal enforcement. In particular, Monaco’s emphasis on clawing back compensation from executives who authorized or permitted illegal behavior is an important policy shift. It should encourage executives to make greater efforts to ensure their companies follow the law.

“Monaco’s emphasis on executive accountability is important, but the main policy shifts she announced merely restore or elaborate on policies announced at the end of the Obama administration with the Yates memo. Abandoning the egregious, corporate-crime-enabling policies of the Trump administration is of course necessary, but it is hardly sufficient.

“We are pleased that the department will ’disfavor’ leniency deals to repeat corporate offenders – a pervasive problem – but that doesn’t go nearly far enough.

“It’s time to end leniency deals for corporate wrongdoers. Corporations are the ultimate rational actors: If they know the costs of breaking the law are worth it for expected monetary gain, then they will break the law – irrespective of the societal damage. We are disappointed to see the department maintain a willingness to enter leniency deals, especially in light of their demonstrated failure to deter future wrongdoing.

“At the end of the day, prosecutorial commitment is as important as any particular policy. Monaco talked tough about corporate crime today and there’s no doubting her sincerity. Now it’s up to the department to back it up.”