Shifting the Burden of Corporate Misconduct Onto Individual Wrongdoers
The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently took several steps to strengthen its fight against white-collar crime. In its attempt to promote corporate compliance, the DOJ announced last September that it would focus on two policies: (1) voluntary self-disclosure and (2) compensation incentives with the use of clawbacks. Since then, every U.S. Attorney’s Office has adopted the first policy, a voluntary self-disclosure program. For consistent application of the policy throughout the nation, all the voluntary self-disclosure programs have a common basis: where a company has voluntarily self-disclosed a violation, cooperated, and remediated the issue without other aggravating factors, the DOJ will not seek a guilty plea. Now, on March 2, 2023, U.S. Deputy Attorney General, Lisa Monaco, announced that the DOJ is ready to launch its second policy through a Compensation Incentives and Clawbacks Program (CICP). This pilot program shifts the responsibility of corporate violations from shareholders onto individual wrongdoers, but it is unclear how effective it will be at promoting compliance.
Possible Pitfalls of the New DOJ Compliance Policy
In March 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) introduced a new policy idea that requires a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) undergo certification. This certification requires CCOs to attest at the end of company resolutions that their compliance program is reasonably designed to detect and promptly remedy behavior suspected or known to be in violation of applicable laws. The new policy is part of an effort to take more proactive measures against criminal behavior and activities such as fraud, bribery, corruption, etc. The certification is also aimed at empowering the CCOs as they speak on behalf of their company’s obligations to the compliance program.
DOJ Renews Efforts to Prosecute White-Collar Crime
In October of 2021, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced it would ramp up its enforcement against corporate repeat offenders of white-collar crimes and prioritize action against individual actors to promote accountability. The new measures implemented permit the DOJ to consider all prior wrongdoing by a corporation when deciding how to resolve a new investigation. Leniency programs of the past will not be extended to wrongdoers unless all believed participants, whether employees or executives, are disclosed. There has also been a shift from financial penalties to probationary settlements, which require companies not only to admit fault and pay fines but also to improve their monitoring of employees to deter crime. This may require outside monitoring to verify compliance, which can be burdensome and expensive.