Sean Hecker is a partner at the New York based Law Firm Debevoise. He recently conducted an online interview about the current state of corporate crimes prosecution in the state and elsewhere.
Hecker states that currently most cases involve deferred pleas or non-prosecution agreements. These are so popular because they allow for a subtler approach to prosecution that leaves room for negotiation between the two parties involved. When a defendant enters a guilty plea they are automatically subject to the full consequences of the law. Hecker says that in certain cases this is too forceful an instrument as the legal repercussions might be too great for a company to bear, encouraging them to deny guilt. This leads to lengthy, expensive, and complicated court proceedings that can go on for years. Corporations and their representatives don’t necessarily want that but prosecutors are wary of it too. Often they lack the resources to commit to a case that a large company might, leaving them at a severe disadvantage.
Companies operate with a different perspective than your average defendant. They have a responsibility to protect their name and the interests of their shareholders. Entering a guilty plea is often an admission that does too much damage to be advisable on their part. While Hecker admits there have been more recently than is considered normal he hopes that this trend will not continue to grow as he considers it detrimental to both sides in the long run.
This is because companies are made up of hundred if not thousands of people. As such it may not be fair to hold an entire organization responsible for the wrongdoing of a single individual within it’s hierarchy. As long as this goes on it will de-incentivize companies that are responsible from being compliant with local laws if an internal violation is brought to their attention.
Hecker says that he is skeptical of the popular notion that the government prosecutors let banking institutions “off the hook” for major crimes. In his opinion federal agencies investigated thoroughly and chose not to press charges. In his mind this indicates they either found nothing or what they did find would be too difficult to prove in court.