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

Photo Gallery: UM v. Virginia Tech | Saturday, November 17, 2018 … Click to Continue » ...

The Miami Hurricanes found new life Saturday — despite so much seemingly going wrong. Big plays on o ...

At least in terms of their bowl situation, the Miami Hurricanes can take a deep, collective breath. ...

Thoughts, notes, reaction and postscripts after UM’s 38-14 win on Saturday at Virginia Tech, making ...

There wasn’t much energy in the Watsco Center stands on Saturday afternoon as most University of Mia ...

UM Libraries is presenting an extraordinary exhibit that immerses the audience in an emotional journ ...

A UM researcher is helping to lead a study on how smoke interacts with clouds and its impact on the ...

People are bombarded with news and information these days, providing opportunities for discourse tha ...

Students, faculty and staff stopped by the School of Architecture’s Korach Gallery to learn what Mag ...

The On Campus event featured innovative National Geographic Explorers—photographers, scientists, sto ...

The Canes got back to their winning ways with an impressive 38-14 victory at Virginia Tech. ...

20-point performances from Chris Lykes and DJ Vasiljevic led Miami past Bethune-Cookman. ...

Seniors Kolby Bird and Haley Templeton will play in their final match at the James L. Knight Sports ...

The No. 24 Miami women's basketball team is headed to Iowa State for the Preseason WNIT champio ...

The Canes hit the road for the final time in the 2018 regular season and it is to a familiar and hos ...

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.