Opinion

Push government to keep corporations accountable

Consider a hypothetical: I decide to go on a string of bank robberies, and after many successful efforts, one poorly planned escape gets me arrested. Luckily, the US Department of Justice intervenes and offers me a sweet deal: As long as I admit that I have committed a wrongdoing, and pay a fine which a judge deems acceptably punitive (which I will then pay from my run of successful bank robberies!), I will be released without any criminal indictments. Sounds like a merciful agreement, right?

Unfortunately, many such agreements have occurred, and continue to occur, between large US corporations and the federal prosecutors charged with holding those who break the law accountable. These agreements take the form of non-prosecution and deferred-prosecution agreements. NPAs and DPAs, as they are often referred to, involve getting companies to agree to an admittance of wrongdoing and an acceptance of further penalties, such as fines and increased oversight, which allows them to avoid criminal conviction.

The use of NPAs and DPAs has increased greatly in the past decade. According to a report published by Gibson Dunn, a global law firm, of the 273 publicly disclosed agreements the Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into since 2000, 252 of them have been since 2005.

In 2013, there were 27 agreements resulting in $2.9 billion of fines. For many of these firms, however, the fines levied upon them may not be significant enough to dissuade them from future negligent behavior.

NPAs and DPAs are not inherently bad. In fact, they create a way for the prosecution and defendant to reach an agreement efficiently, avoiding months’ or years’ worth of legal fees and paperwork. With the rise of these agreements, however, the possibility that corporations will receive a punishment commensurate with their crime decreases in likelihood.

Students at the University of Virginia School of Law have determined that the potential for abuse contained in these agreements requires greater public scrutiny. Thus, they filed a Freedom of Information Act in an attempt to get the DOJ to publicly disclose information regarding 30 settlements that are currently not available for public review.

This number, although small in proportion to the total number of public agreements, reduces the transparency of the legal system and leaves in place the potential for abusive practices by prosecutors and defendants alike.

In order to prevent abuses from taking place within the formation of these agreements, the Department of Justice should be required to disclose all of the records from non- and deferred-prosecution agreements, as well as provide a rationale as to why criminal indictments were not issued against the companies investigated.

It is the job of the DOJ to hold the powerful accountable. It is thus the job of the people to hold the DOJ to those same standards.

Paul Ryan is a junior majoring in economics and finance.

April 24, 2014

Reporters

Paul Ryan


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Could the once forlorn University of Miami be closer than some think to extending that national-reco ...

A few media notes on a Thursday: • As has been the case most years, ABC has decided to televise the ...

Most of the University of Miami student body is on Summer break; but the Hurricanes football team is ...

University of Miami football great Cortez Kennedy, a Pro Football Hall of Famer remembered for his w ...

The Hurricanes are still alive in their quest to make it to the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. ...

A new study reveals that mindfulness training, but not relaxation training, benefits college athlete ...

Frenk delivered his inaugural lecture Wednesday, officially joining the most prestigious group of Me ...

Victor Oquendo, BSC ’09, is following in his parents’ footsteps. ...

The Rosenstiel School’s final lecture of the 2017 Sea Secrets series focused on using science diplom ...

Researchers believe they have found a new way to monitor the intensity and location of hurricanes fr ...

No. 40 Estela Perez-Somarriba took down No. 27 Arianne Hartono of Ole Miss, 6-4, 6-3, Thursday morni ...

Jonathan Keller and Amanda Gale of the University of Miami track and field program were named to the ...

The University of Miami's Week 3 game at in-state rival Florida State on Sept. 16 will be telev ...

Due to inclement weather, the ACC Championship has adjusted the scheduled for games and Miami will n ...

No. 40 Estela Perez-Somarriba dominated the final two sets to register a 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 triumph over ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.