US Department of Justice issues guidance on how compliance programs are evaluated

On May 1st, the US Justice Department issued a new guidance document entitled “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs”. Here’s the introduction section:

The “Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations” in the Justice Manual describe specific factors that prosecutors should consider in conducting an investigation of a corporation, determining whether to bring charges, and negotiating plea or other agreements. JM 9-28.300. These factors include “the adequacy and effectiveness of the corporation’s compliance program at the time of the offense, as well as at the time of a charging decision” and the corporation’s remedial efforts “to implement an adequate and effective corporate compliance program or to improve an existing one.” JM 9-28.300 (citing JM 9-28.800 and JM 9-28.1000). Additionally, the United States Sentencing Guidelines advise that consideration be given to whether the corporation had in place at the time of the misconduct an effective compliance program for purposes of calculating the appropriate organizational criminal fine. See U.S.S.G. §§ 8B2.1, 8C2.5(f), and 8C2.8(11). Moreover, the memorandum entitled “Selection of Monitors in Criminal Division Matters” issued by Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski (hereafter, the “Benczkowski Memo”) instructs prosecutors to consider, at the time of the resolution, “whether the corporation has made significant investments in, and improvements to, its corporate compliance program and internal controls systems” and “whether remedial improvements to the compliance program and internal controls have been tested to demonstrate that they would prevent or detect similar misconduct in the future” to determinewhether a monitor is appropriate.

This document is meant to assist prosecutors in making informed decisions as to whether, and to what extent, the corporation’s compliance program was effective at the time of the offense, and is effective at the time of a charging decision or resolution, for purposes of determining the appropriate (1) form of any resolution or prosecution; (2) monetary penalty, if any; and (3) compliance obligations contained in any corporate criminal resolution (e.g., monitorship or reporting obligations).

Because a corporate compliance program must be evaluated in the specific context of a criminal investigation, the Criminal Division does not use any rigid formula to assess the effectiveness of corporate compliance programs. We recognize that each company’s risk profile and solutions to reduce its risks warrant particularized evaluation. Accordingly, we make an individualized determination in each case. There are, however, common questions that we may ask in the course of making an individualized determination. As the Justice Manual notes, there are three “fundamental questions“ a prosecutor should ask:

1. “Is the corporation’s compliance program well designed?“

2. “Is the program being applied earnestly and in good faith?“ In other words, is the program being implemented effectively?

3. “Does the corporation’s compliance program work“ in practice?

See JM § 9-28.800.

In answering each of these three “fundamental questions,“ prosecutors may evaluate the company’s performance on various topics that the Criminal Division has frequently found relevant in evaluating a corporate compliance program. The sample topics and questions below form neither a checklist nor a formula. In any particular case, the topics and questions set forth below may not all be relevant, and others may be more salient given the particular facts at issue.1 Even though we have organized the topics under these three fundamental questions, we recognize that some topics necessarily fall under more than one category.

Link:

DOJ Guidance

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