Laying Down the Law

In a major speech hosted by NYU Law’s Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement (PCCE) last September, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates outlined the reasoning behind the Department of Justice’s new policy on individual liability in instances of corporate wrongdoing.

The policy, which addresses calls for the Justice Department to pursue more prosecutions of corporate leaders whose malfeasance contributed heavily to the 2008 financial crisis, garnered a front-page New York Times story on the morning of Yates’s speech. The audience for the speech included a number of US attorneys from around the country and other high-ranking Justice Department officials.

While the DOJ has made headlines in the recent past for its criminal prosecutions of large corporations, individual culprits within companies have largely avoided punishment. Yates acknowledged the difficulty of bringing specific executives to justice in organizations “where responsibility is often diffuse.” Nevertheless, Yates said, “The public expects and demands this accountability. Americans should never believe, even incorrectly, that one’s criminal activity will go unpunished simply because it was committed on behalf of a corporation.”

Other recent high-profile PCCE events include a November discussion with Andrew Weissmann, chief of the Fraud Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and Hui Chen, the Fraud Section’s compliance counsel; a roundtable in January with Justice Department officials Virginia Romano, Joyce Branda, and Sung-Hee Suh; and an April conference on corporate and individual liability for corporate misconduct in the aftermath of Yates’s policy memo, featuring a keynote by David Green, director of the UK’s Serious Fraud Office.

Posted September 2, 2016