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'Yates memo' outlines Justice Department expectations of federal prosecutors

Posted On: Jan. 24, 2016 12:00 AM CST

The U.S. Justice Department's new playbook on individual responsibility in corporate wrongdoing, known as the “Yates memo,” is a seven-page document written by Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates.

“Fighting corporate fraud and other misconduct is a top priority of the Department of Justice. Our nation's economy depends on effective enforcement of the civil and criminal laws that protect our financial system and, by extension, all our citizens,” begins the dictum.

“One of the most effective ways to combat corporate misconduct is by seeking accountability from the individuals who perpetrated the wrongdoing,” it continues in laying out specific guidelines.

“The measures described in this memo are steps that should be taken in any investigation of corporate misconduct. Some of these measures are new, while others reflect best practices that are already employed by many federal prosecutors,” Ms. Yates wrote last September.

Six “key steps” the Justice Department says it will take to strengthen its pursuit of individual corporate wrongdoing, “some of which reflect policy shifts,” are:

• To qualify for any cooperation credit, corporations must provide the Justice Department with all relevant facts about individuals responsible for the misconduct.

• Criminal and civil corporate investigations should focus on individuals from the start of the investigation.

• Criminal and civil attorneys handling corporate investigations should communicate routinely.

• Absent extraordinary circumstances or approved departmental policy, the Justice Department will not release culpable individuals from civil or criminal liability when resolving a matter with a corporation.

• Justice Department attorneys should not resolve corporate matters without a clear plan to resolve related individual cases and should “memorialize any declinations as to individuals in such cases.”

• Civil attorneys should evaluate whether to sue individuals “based on considerations beyond that individual's ability to pay.”