Dept. of Justice shifts to individual executive prosecutions

In a recent memo, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates called on federal prosecutors to focus on individual misconduct, and to withhold cooperation from corporations unless they conduct thorough internal investigations and implicate executives suspected of wrongdoing.

“To be eligible for any credit for cooperation, the company must identify all individuals involved in or responsible for the misconduct at issue, regardless of their position, status or seniority, and provide to the Department all facts relating to that misconduct,” says the so-called “Yates memo.”

The memo references six issues to promote accountability among implicated executives:

  • Criminal and civil corporate investigations should focus on individuals from their inception
  • DOJ criminal and civil attorneys handling corporate investigations should collaborate
  • Corporate resolutions should not protect individuals from criminal or civil liability
  • Corporate cases should not be resolved without a clear plan to address related individual cases
  • Civil attorneys should focus on individuals as well as the company, and should evaluate whether to bring suit against an individual.

The memo is believed, in part, to stem from criticism of the department that it has been not been stringent enough in prosecuting executives, particularly following the financial crisis.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers.