Under the guidelines issued on Wednesday, the Justice Department (DOJ) told civil and criminal investigators to focus on individual employees, rather than the corporation as an entity, from the very beginning of a potential case, according to The New York Times, which was provided with a memo outlining the new policy.
The guidelines further state that in settlement negotiations, corporations won’t receive credit for cooperating with the government unless they turn over evidence against employees, “regardless of their position, status or seniority.”
DOJ issues new rules aimed at executives who engage in criminal conduct: http://t.co/OILVZQEZgU #emplaw #hr #CEO
— Kate Bischoff (@k8bischHRLaw) September 10, 2015
“Corporations can only commit crimes through flesh-and-blood people,” Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general and author of the memo outlining guidelines, told the Times.
“It is only fair that the people who are responsible for committing those crimes be held accountable. The public needs to have confidence that there is one system of justice and it applies equally regardless of whether the crime occurs on a street corner or in a boardroom.”
The Times reported that during white-collar investigations, when a corporation is suspected of wrongdoing, companies hire lawyers to conduct an internal investigation and turn over their findings to the Justice Department. The findings “form the basis for the settlement discussions.” With the new guidelines, corporations “will be expected to name names.”
The guidelines are the first major policy announcement by new Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who took over in April from Eric Holder. They take effect immediately.
Holder came under heavy criticism by Congress and consumer advocates during his tenure for repeatedly negotiating settlement deals with banking corporations, such as JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup, as well as for the department’s failure to prosecute even a single Wall Street executive following the financial crisis of 2008.
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