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Questions arise about new federal approach to white-collar crime


New Jersey residents might not know that the Justice Department is making changes in an approach to crack down on white-collar criminal activity by corporations, but some believe the new DOJ policies are long overdue and are not enough to hold the responsible companies accountable. The problem with many alleged crimes committed by corporations is that individuals may be turned over for wrongdoing while defense attorneys for corporations fight to keep their clients from having to plead guilty to any charges.

To avoid guilty pleas, corporations might instead pay large fines, turn over executives or allow a monitor who reports back to the government. However, the company may get to approve the monitor. The new DOJ policy requires that a suspected corporate criminal must cooperate to get credit from federal prosecutors. Some argue that this should have already been the policy and that the federal government has flaws when responding to corporate crimes.

A DOJ representative said that holding the responsible parties accountable will deter corporate wrongdoing, but some think better ways to deter corporate wrongdoing include requiring corporate guilty pleas or prohibiting nonprosecution agreements. This is because corporations might be able to avoid accountability if nonprosecution agreements or deferred agreements are allowed. One former prosecutor noted that corporate misconduct is essentially condoned as deferred agreements and fines do not have the same shaming power that a guilty plea does.

Some in the criminal justice world think prosecutors should go after corporations instead of individuals, but executives and others can be singled out and charged with crimes even if questionable behaviors were accepted by a company as a whole. Whether one committed wrongdoing or not, federal white-collar crime charges are serious. Those who are facing fraud or similar charges may want to consult with a criminal defense attorney who has experience with these types of matters.

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