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Brandon L Garrett

Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations

May/
Fri 22 May 2015

Brandon L Garrett

Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations

garrett_hires[1]
Fri 22 May 2015,

Banks are too big to fail; some corporations are too big to jail even when committing criminal acts. American courts routinely hand out harsh sentences to individual convicts, but a different standard of justice applies to corporations. Brandon L Garrett takes us into a complex, compromised world of backroom deals, in an unprecedented look at what happens when criminal charges are brought against a major company in the United States, and abroad.

Presenting detailed data from more than a decade of federal cases, he reveals a pattern of negotiation and settlement in which prosecutors demand admissions of wrongdoing, impose penalties, and require structural reforms. However, these reforms are usually vaguely defined. These agreements, which have ballooned in popularity, have also helped ensure that few employees are prosecuted for their crimes — even in the wake of the financial crisis. Many companies pay no criminal fine, and even the biggest blockbuster payments are often greatly reduced. While companies must cooperate in the investigations, high-level employees tend to get off scot-free.

The practical reality is that when prosecutors face Hydra-headed corporate defendants prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on lawyers, such agreements may be the only way to get any result at all. Garrett describes concrete ways to improve corporate law enforcement by insisting on more stringent prosecution agreements, ongoing judicial review, and greater transparency. 

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