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

The Miami Hurricanes returned to the football field Tuesday, their first spring at the Carol Soffer ...

So much for the suspense of Selection Monday. The University of Miami women’s basketball team didn’t ...

The University of Miami women’s basketball team didn’t have to wait until Monday night’s Selection S ...

Nearly three months have passed since we last saw the Miami Hurricanes perform on a football field, ...

Manny Diaz begins his first spring practice as UM’s head football coach on Tuesday, and nobody — not ...

Watch a video about the Annual Senior Showcase involving students in the Theatre Arts Program. ...

Become one in a million. Join the All of Us research program. ...

With Florida lifting the ban on smokable medical marijuana, the nursing school’s Denise Vidot answer ...

Three School of Architecture students recount their first day in Switzerland, and some of the archit ...

In the aftermath of the powerful tornado that devastated a rural Alabama community, a UM storm exper ...

The Miami women's basketball team received a No. 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament and will host th ...

The Canes return home for a week, beginning a five-game homestand with a midweek series against Colu ...

The University of Miami women's track and field program rank eighth in the preseason edition of ...

New Hurricanes wide receiver K.J. Osborn was swayed by what he saw on his television set in early Ja ...

Images from the No. 27 Miami women's tennis team's 5-2 triumph over No. 42 Notre Dame at t ...

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.