Employees of investment firms and professionals throughout New York City need to take note of a new possible threat: the Justice Department has announced new policies prioritizing the prosecution of employees for corporate wrongdoing. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking action to become more aggressive in prosecuting individual employees after years of criticism that it went “too soft” on Wall Street following the financial collapse. Part of the DOJ’s new policies focuses on encouraging companies to turn over evidence against executives, while there will also be a shift in how investigations are structured to focus on employees from the beginning.
The problem with these new policies is they are driven largely by politics, and they can encourage scapegoating of people with only tangential involvement in criminal acts or even with no knowledge they were participating in lawbreaking.
Defendants who are charged with white collar crimes like financial fraud, Sarbanes-Oxley violations, insider trading, and other related offenses can face lengthy prison terms and a ruined career. As the DOJ goes on a witch hunt to satisfy a vocal group crying out for prosecution of financial professionals, it is essential for those accused of wrongdoing to get appropriate legal help from a NY criminal defense firm with knowledge of how to handle complex financial crimes cases.
Justice Department Going After White Collar Crime
The NY Times reported that the Justice Department is going to be taking a stronger stance in going after employees of corporations that commit crimes in part because of criticism that the DOJ has “punished few executives involved in the housing crisis, the financial meltdown and corporate scandals.”
A copy of the DOJ’s memo was provided to the New York Times and it describes several different policy shifts that are now going into effect. For example, while investigations previously turned to individuals only after a settlement was negotiated with corporations, now investigations will focus on the people who allegedly commit crimes from day one when wrongdoing is identified.
During settlement negotiations, companies will also no longer receive credit for any cooperation with government authorities unless they identify employees who were involved in the alleged wrongful acts and turn over evidence against those employees. Getting credit for cooperation can make the difference between being charged criminally and facing only civil penalties and getting this credit can save companies billions of dollars in fines. There will now be a strong incentive for businesses to turn on executives and other workers who they can point fingers at. While a spokesperson for the DOJ said they would not allow companies to put the blame onto “low-level officials,” the problem is, companies could still have incentive to turn over scapegoats to save their own business interests.
The DOJ’s new policies outlined in its memo are guidelines, and no new laws have been passed. The rules take effect immediately and it is expected that politicians campaigning for president will be invoking the new policies as a talking point on the campaign trail. The fact that the policy change is likely politically motivated means that the DOJ may be focusing more on the optics of its actions and less on actually making sure that justice is done.
No defendant in a criminal case should be prosecuted to show a politician is tough on crime, but this is exactly what could end up happening. Anyone who is accused of wrongdoing in connection with any white collar crimes needs to understand his or her rights and build an aggressive defense quickly to avoid being made an example of. A New York criminal defense lawyer can provide invaluable assistance to those who are accused of wrongdoing or who are under investigation by the DOJ and who need help protecting their future. Even an accusation of wrongdoing can end a professional career, so don’t wait to call a lawyer who can help. Contact Bukh Law Firm, PLLC today to get advice and representation from a lawyer you can trust.