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

Dewan Huell will be wearing green and orange for at least another year. Huell announced Saturday on ...

Their bats and gloves and baseball skills weren't enough Thursday night. Now, the Miami Hurrica ...

Florida State's recruiting trail hit Georgia last week, and while the #Tribe19 class is a focal ...

It's almost summer, time for college football players to wind down and chill out — every now an ...

Alumna and faculty member shares lessons and learning about racial identity in free parent community ...

Voters head to the polls in a historic election to choose the country’s next president. ...

From boathouse to marine research powerhouse, the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Scienc ...

A snapshot guide to the start of summer in and around UM. ...

Former investment banker Charmel Maynard leads UM’s investments and treasury functions. ...

The Canes wrapped up a stormy weekend at the NCAA East Preliminary with their final two qualifiers f ...

Miami native pulls name out of NBA Draft process. ...

Stormy weather in the Gulf of Mexico may have delayed Friday's competition, but wind and rain c ...

Last season, Miami Hurricanes fans created, quite simply, one of the best home-field advantages in c ...

University of Miami senior Christian Langmo and freshman Adria Soriano were edged by Florida's ...

TMH Twitter
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 in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.