U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland zeroed in on the prosecution of individuals involved in corporate white-collar crime at the American Bar Association’s 37th National Institute on White Collar Crime on March 3.
In a virtual keynote address to the conference, which was held in San Francisco and sponsored by the ABA Criminal Justice Section, Garland reiterated the importance of corporate criminal law enforcement by the Department of Justice. “Corporate crime weakens our economic institutions by undermining public trust in the fairness of those institutions,” he said. “Failing to aggressively prosecute such crimes weakens our democratic institutions by undermining public trust in the rule of law.”
Garland said DOJ’s first priority is to prosecute individuals who commit corporate crimes because corporations only act through individuals. “The rule of law requires that there not be one rule for the powerful and another for the powerless; one rule for the rich and another for the poor.”
Garland said the Justice Department is marshaling resources to expand its corporate criminal enforcement efforts. He pointed to proposed multimillion-dollar budget increases to combat pandemic-related fraud, particularly connected to CARES Act programs, and to support the FBI’s White-Collar Crime Program. Garland also touted new tools to effectively help prosecutors and agents bring individuals to justice, such as the interagency task force to hold accountable Russian oligarchs and others who seek to evade U.S. sanctions, and the use of data analytics to identify payment anomalies that are indicative of fraud.
Garland also heralded the successful investigations and prosecuted cases against a wide range of company executives over the past year. The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices charged 5,521 individuals with white-collar crimes, a 10% increase over the previous year. Additionally, the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division alone brought 25 criminal cases against 29 individuals and 14 corporations, with 146 open grand jury investigations.
“As a defense attorney, prosecutor and judge, I have also seen the Justice Department’s interest in prosecuting corporate crime wax and wane over time,” Garland said. “Today, it is waxing again.”