The Justice Department says it wants federal prosecutors to get tougher on white collar crime. In a memo obtained by the New York Times, the department instructed the government’s lawyers and the FBI to go after not just the companies that break the law, but their employees as well. The target of this is likely top-level executives who have often been shielded from prosecution by government settlements with companies.
Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates, who authored the memo, said these guidelines will make executives at all levels turn over more information. These are guidelines for attorneys, not laws, points out Marcia Narine, an as assistant professor at St. Thomas University’s School of Law in Florida.
“And what this tells companies,” she says, “is that from the very inception [of an investigation], companies are going to have to cooperate with the government and pretty much serve up the wrongdoers in the company.”
The memo says that if companies don’t hand over details about employee involvement, they won’t get what’s called “cooperation credit” to help lessen penalties. Also, even when companies settle and pay fines, Yates says attorneys shouldn’t make deals to shield executives as a way to convince companies to admit wrongdoing.