Corporate Governance Regulation Through Non-prosecution

Jennifer Arlen (New York University School of Law)
Marcel Kahan (New York University School of Law)

Abstract: Over the last decade, federal corporate criminal enforcement policy has undergone a significant transformation. Firms that commit crimes are no longer simply required to pay fines. Instead, prosecutors and firms enter into pretrial diversion agreements (PDAs). Prosecutors regularly use PDAs to impose mandates on firms creating new duties that alter firms’ internal operations or governance structures. This Article evaluates PDA mandates to determine whether and when prosecutors can appropriately use them to deter corporate crime. We find that mandates can be justified. But, contrary to DOJ policy favoring mandates for any firm with a deficient compliance program at the time of the crime, we find that mandates should be imposed more selectively. Specifically, mandates are only appropriate if a firm is plagued by “policing agency costs”—in that the firm’s managers did not act to deter or report wrongdoing because they benefitted personally from tolerating wrongdoing or from deficient corporate policing. We show that this policing agency cost justification provides guidance on how to reform federal policy to make appropriate use of mandates, guidance which reveals that many mandates are inappropriate.

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