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The Justice Department wants to cut down on corporate misbehavior by offering wrongdoers leniency



The Justice Department is piloting a new program meant to entice employees or other individuals involved in unlawful corporate behavior to report it in exchange for leniency—with conditions.

The new “Voluntary Self-Disclosure” program targets select individuals who were personally involved in corporate or financial wrongdoing, encouraging them with a non-prosecution agreement, as long as they fully cooperate with the DOJ, including by testifying, providing documents, or other means.

The wrongdoers must provide original information to the DOJ’s Criminal Division and promise to give up any unlawfully obtained profits, as well as compensate victims, according to a DOJ memo. The program will apply to people reporting new details regarding foreign corruption and bribery, money laundering, and healthcare fraud, among other white-collar offenses.

By offering up conditional leniency to people involved in white-collar crimes, the DOJ expects that companies will step up their own enforcement, a senior Justice Department official told Fortune.

“Part of the idea here is that by incentivizing either whistleblowers or people who have criminal exposure to come forward to the Criminal Division, that ratchets up the pressure on companies to come forward as soon as they find out about potential misconduct in their ranks,” the official said.

Offering leniency to corporate wrongdoers could also encourage companies to change the way they handle misconduct internally, the senior Justice Department official said.

“The policy incentivizes companies to make sure that they have robust compliance programs and strong internal reporting structures so that they are doing everything they can to detect misconduct and to address it,” the official said.

The DOJ’s pilot immunity program started as of April 15 and has no set expiration date. It will only be available to employees who have no prior felony convictions and it excludes the CEO and chief financial officers of public and private companies, according to the memo. 

The new program comes after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco instituted similar initiatives earlier this year. Unlike those programs, the DOJ’s pilot will apply nationwide. 

Last month, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said the DOJ was developing a separate pilot program to give financial rewards to whistleblowers. Unlike the Voluntary Self-Disclosure program, the whistleblower rewards program won’t be available to those personally involved in the misconduct. Monaco said the whistleblower rewards program is set to launch by the end of the year.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission each have their own programs to give out financial rewards to whistleblowers. The SEC gave out nearly $600 million to whistleblowers in its fiscal 2023. It also granted its biggest ever award of just under $279 million last year. The CFTC gave out $16 million to whistleblowers last year. 

A former senior DOJ official, Chris Grieco, told Fortune that the DOJ’s Voluntary Self-Disclosure program shows that the agency wants to target “bigger fish,” who are more culpable than those that come forward.

“[T]his is another step in the Department’s attempt to get companies to self-report and fits into the broader approach the Department has taken for years towards corporate prosecutions,” Grieco said.



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