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Corporate Wrongdoing May Result In More Individual Indictments

A 2008 memorandum from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of the Deputy Attorney General states that corporations in Greenville, South Carolina, and throughout the country are to be considered legal persons under the law. As such, they can be held accountable for criminal activity. However, those who bring the company under scrutiny by making decisions or carrying them out may not receive attention or be held accountable.

The same memorandum also implemented passed revisions to the Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations in an attempt to strengthen the U.S. Department of Justice's ability to investigate corporations, executives and employees when companies are charged with crimes.

Yahoo News reports that in spite of the fact that this policy has been in place for seven years, there are those in the U.S. Government who believe there is still not enough executive accountability when a charge of wrongdoing is brought against a corporation.

Guidelines focus on employees

According to the New York Times, the U.S. Department of Justice recently issued new guidelines that place the focus of criminal investigations on employees first, rather than on the corporation as a whole. The new rules will prevent companies from receiving settlements when they do not cooperate with investigators. Without settlements, corporations engaged in criminal activities would have to pay billions of dollars in reparations.

In the past, corporations have used tactics, such as withholding evidence, to protect employees from indictment, and the Justice Department has reached settlements with these companies without insisting that the information be provided first.

Justice not guaranteed

The new rules have received criticism on a number of fronts. For example, some believe that previous precedents where plea bargains were accepted have weakened the potential for effectiveness. In the past, many corporate employees who were charged with crimes still did not receive a prison sentence. This could be an indication that identifying a responsible person in white-collar crime cases will ultimately not make a difference.

While the deputy attorney general, who authored the revisions, insists that the Justice Department will not allow this to happen, many question the department's ability to discover the responsible parties in these cases. Others have pointed out that it will not be difficult for executives to escape prosecution by offering up scapegoats.

It remains to be seen whether these changes will make a practical difference in the way that the Department of Justice handles white collar crime. However, new policies could affect employees who would not otherwise be involved when charges are brought against companies in South Carolina. A criminal law attorney who is familiar with new policies and regulations may be able to provide legal assistance to those who find themselves under investigation for white-collar crimes.