DOJ revises corporate enforcement policy applicable to all criminal matters including FCPA cases
On January 17, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. delivered remarks at Georgetown University Law Center, during which he announced changes to the DOJ’s Criminal Division Corporate Enforcement and Voluntary Self-Disclosure Policy. Polite provided background information on the DOJ Criminal Division’s voluntary self-disclosure incentive program, the FCPA Pilot Program, that was announced in 2016 and expanded in 2017 to become the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy (covered by InfoBytes here). This policy, Pilot said, has been applied to all corporate cases prosecuted by the Criminal Division since at least 2018, and provided, among other things, that “if a company voluntarily self-discloses, fully cooperates, and timely and appropriately remediates, there is a presumption that [the DOJ] will decline to prosecute absent certain aggravating circumstances involving the seriousness of the offense or the nature of the offender.” The policy also provided a maximum 50 percent reduction off the low end of the applicable sentencing guidelines penalty range to companies that self-disclosed violations where a criminal resolution is warranted. Last year, following a request by the Deputy Attorney General to have all DOJ components write voluntary self-disclosure policies, the Criminal Division conducted an assessment of its existing policy. Pilot said the division is now announcing the first significant changes to the policy since 2017.
Under the updated policy, companies are offered “new, significant and concrete incentives to self-disclose misconduct,” Polite said, explaining that “even in situations where companies do not self-disclose, the revisions to the policy provide incentives for companies to go far above and beyond the bare minimum when they cooperate with [DOJ] investigations.” He emphasized that the revisions clarify that companies will face very different outcomes if they do not self-disclose, meaningfully cooperate with investigations, or remediate. However, the revisions provide a path that incentivizes even more robust compliance on the front-end in order to prevent misconduct and requires even more robust cooperation and remediation on the back-end should a crime occur.
Polite stated that prosecutors might decline to bring charges against a company over crimes with aggravating factors if the company can demonstrate that it: (i) made voluntary disclosures immediately upon becoming aware of an allegation of misconduct; (ii) had an effective compliance program already in place at the time of the misconduct that allowed it to identify the misconduct and led it to voluntarily self-disclose; and (iii) provided exceptional cooperation and extraordinary remediation. Should a company fail to take these steps, it risks “increasing its criminal exposure and monetary penalties,” Polite warned, emphasizing that the DOJ’s “job is not just to prosecute crime, but to deter and prevent criminal conduct.” He added that the DOJ will recommend a reduction in fines of at least 50 percent and up to 75 percent (except in the case of a criminal recidivist) for companies that voluntarily report wrongdoing and fully cooperate with investigations. Even companies that do not voluntarily disclose wrongdoing but still fully cooperate with an investigation and timely and appropriately remediate could still receive a 50 percent reduction off the low end of the guidelines for fines, Polite said. “The policy is sending an undeniable message: come forward, cooperate, and remediate. We are going to be closely examining how companies discipline bad actors and reward the good ones.”