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New guidelines place focus on executives not corporations

Certain employees on Wall Street have been able to avoid criminal charges for some incidents because the Justice Department has prosecuted companies instead of individuals. That trend is one that won't continue. The Justice Department is now setting its sights on prosecuting individuals instead of corporations.

This is likely stunning news for some executives. What might be even more shocking is that the Justice Department is going to put pressure on corporations to get them to hand over evidence that could be used against executives in white collar crime charges.

The change comes based on the concept that it takes humans to cause corporations to commit crimes. A memo from the Justice Department changes the way that investigations are handled in some cases. Historically, the Justice Department has gone after individuals only after it negotiated a corporate settlement regarding the criminal acts. That method meant that oftentimes the employees or executives wouldn't face criminal charges.

Now, the Justice Department will look into individuals from the start instead of waiting. Corporations won't be able to count on getting credit for cooperating with the government unless they help identify the individuals who were part of the criminal acts, as well as provide evidence that proves that point. There is some worry that this will lead to corporations throwing the low-level employees under the bus, but the author of the memo says the Justice Department won't allow that to happen.

For those who are dealing with the new guidelines, it is crucial to remember that they are only guidelines and not laws. If you are in that position, you should seek to understand how the policy affects you and how you can present a defense against the accusations and charges you are facing.

Source: The New York Times, "Justice Department Sets Sights on Wall Street Executives," Matt Apuzzo and Ben Protess, accessed June 29, 2016

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