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Litigation Regulation White Collar Crime

Corporate Criminal Liability in the COVID-19 Era

Compliance Programs Offer Companies an Opportunity to Mitigate Risk

This article outlines the principles of corporate criminal liability, including the factors prosecutors consider when making charging decisions, and the potentially available sanctions in light of applicable U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and offers strategies for minimizing risk, including lessons from recent criminal enforcement actions.


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The Department of Justice (DOJ) “Yates Memo” in 2015 renewed the federal government’s commitment to hold individuals accountable for corporate wrongdoing and offered related incentives. Companies, looking to minimize their enforcement risks and avoid indictment, are incentivized to provide the government information about employees and executives, sometimes to support a claim that a rogue employee acted against company policy. These incentives apparently have been successful; individual prosecutions for corporate malfeasance have increased in recent years. See, The Yates Memo is Here to Stay: Signs of Increasing Efforts to Hold Individuals Criminally Liable for Corporate Wrongdoing,” Business Crimes Bulletin (June 2019).

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