On September 9, 2015, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates issued a memo entitled “Individual Accountability for Corporate Wrongdoing,” which represents the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to place greater emphasis on individual corporate employees’ criminal culpability and pressure companies to cooperate. The memo can be read here:http://www.justice.gov/dag/file/769036/download
This change is at least partially due to the severe criticism of the DOJ’s levy of large fines against companies for culpable behavior but utter lack of action against individuals who directed and/or perpetrated the wrongful acts.
For one glaring example, four worldwide banks, including Citigroup, Barclays, JP Morgan Chase and Royal Bank of Scotland, pleaded guilty on May 20, 2015 to conspiring to manipulate dollars and euros. They were fined $5.4 billion by the U. S, though no individual was criminally prosecuted (yet), whereupon the banks wrote checks of shareholder monies to pay the fines and conducted business as usual.
The main problem with pursuing high-level white collar criminals is that their wrongdoing is so difficult to prove. Experts claim that these criminals are roughly the equivalents of Mafia dons, taking great care to avoid creating and/or to eliminate evidence of their culpability, while letting underlings to take the fall for criminal behavior.
The current Volkswagen debacle in which Volkswagen officials perpetrated deliberate deception on the American government an American consumers through the use of “defeat device” software that turns emissions equipment on for tests and off for real driving. According to experts, the development and use of such software must have been a high-level decision at Volkswagen. An explanation of exactly how the defeat devices work is can be viewed here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlwB9wHJKFs
Given the September 9th memo and Volkswagen’s brazenly fraudulent use of “defeat devices,” consumer advocates are watching the DOJ to see whether the government’s stated commitment to pursue individual white collar criminals is genuine.
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