U.S. outlines new policy for investigating corporate executives

Thu Sep 10, 2015 5:27pm EDT
 
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By David Ingram

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice laid out on Thursday a revised policy for prosecutors to focus on wrongdoing by corporate executives, drawing criticism it was too late after the 2008-09 financial meltdown and housing crisis.

The new guidelines, outlined in a memo to federal prosecutors across the United States, were met with skepticism from at least one consumer advocacy group and politicians critical of President Barack Obama's administration.

The memo "amounts to a striking admission that the DOJ's policy on Wall Street corporate crime has been completely ineffective," Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said in a statement.

Weissman said the real test would be whether or not prosecutors can put the policy into action.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates said in a speech at New York University School of Law that companies must be more willing to give up their own officers or employees, not hide people's crimes when authorities start asking questions.

"We're not going to let corporations plead ignorance. If they don't know who is responsible, they will need to find out," Yates said.

The memo circulated on Wednesday said that in future investigations a company would not receive any credit for cooperating unless it disclosed all relevant facts about the people involved in suspected wrongdoing or crimes.

It may be some time, though, before there are visible results. The changes apply to current matters only to the extent it is practicable, according to the memo, and complex white-collar investigations often take years to complete.   Continued...

 
U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Going Dark: Encryption, Technology, and the Balance Between Public Safety and Privacy" in Washington July 8,  2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque