After an investigation is over, the real work in a white-collar crime prosecution begins. The Department of Justice commits significant resources to securing convictions for Medicare fraud and other forms of corporate criminal misconduct.

These procedures are complex, and the initial DOJ strategy often comes just as much from internal policy as it does from case law and statute. To understand how you might share corporate responsibility for criminal acts, you might start by looking at the current priorities of this powerful government office.

Employees and shareholders could have liability

If a business you own is the target of a federal prosecution, depending on your role and level of ownership, the case could potentially penalize you. The same is true in certain cases if you work for the company.

In a public statement, a representative of the DOJ outlined the department’s current stance on corporate prosecutions and investigations. Here are some of the important points:

  • The goal is to determine who is responsible for criminal actions
  • Investigations focus on those who have central roles in directing companies towards criminal conduct
  • The DOJ wants efficient resolutions to cases
  • Companies that want to cooperate and act in good faith could gain cooperation credit

With this in mind, you might not be a significant subject of the DOJ case if you simply performed actions that contributed in some way to the criminal activity of your corporation. You might also gain some benefit for yourself and your organization by helping uncover facts. However, there is more to the problem than this.

Investigators and prosecutors could exaggerate the benefits of cooperation

Representatives of the DOJ have publicly stated that there are potential benefits to cooperating in investigations. However, if you are the subject of an investigation, it is not the prosecutor’s duty to act in your best interest or provide benefit for you in any way.

In fact, their job is to efficiently resolve cases. Especially absent any enforceable agreement that protects you from liability, it is possible that prosecutors would convict you regardless of the level of cooperation you provide.

It depends on the case

You might interpret these public statements from the DOJ regarding cooperation as a step back from previous all-or-nothing policies. However, the main functions of a corporate criminal misconduct suit are  to punish wrongdoers and recover assets. That much, at least, has not changed.

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