Few Individuals are likely to go to jail because of the Justice Department’s new focus on prosecuting people rather than businesses for corporate crimes, a former high-ranking DOJ attorney told an American Bar Association meeting in Washington, D.C., Friday.
While a widely publicized September memo by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates has been promoted as the start of a major effort to hold individuals responsible for company wrongdoing instead of just penalizing the businesses themselves, few financial services workers are likely to be prosecuted, said Joan Meyer, who once managed the president’s Corporate Fraud Task Force.
Meyer said a major reason few prosecutions will take place is that criminal cases against financial services workers are very complex and the time involved in gathering evidence and proving intent can sideline a prosecutor for years.
“DOJ doesn’t have the resources,” said Meyer.
The attorney noted the Yates memo said the Justice Department is aiming to prosecute major criminal violations in complex fraud cases.
That does not amount to the DOJ’s version of Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White’s “broken windows” policy of pursuing minor violators, Meyer said.
The biggest impact of the Justice Department initiative on financial advisors will be internal investigations will become more compressed in time and more complex, she said.
She noted prosecutors will be putting a lot more pressure on companies to give them an understanding of what happened in cases of potential wrongdoing more quickly. In the past, internal investigations have often taken years, she added.
Because federal prosecutors are becoming increasingly adamant about companies naming potential violators, she said more employees are going to ask their employers to provide attorneys for them before they will cooperate with internal reviews.
“(The Yates memo) has put a chilling effect on internal investigations. There’s more of a sense of a witch hunt here, that the company will send them into the arms of the Justice Department,” said Meyer, who works with the business crimes investigations and corporate compliance units of the Washington office of the law firm Baker & McKenzie.