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DOJ: New policy mandates altered focus in white collar probes

As we note on our website at The Law Office of John W. Noonan in the San Francisco Bay Area, "federal law enforcement agents have nearly unlimited resources with which to investigate allegations of wrongdoing."

Federal criminal charges encompass a broad range of subject matter, with one central and highly scrutinized area focusing squarely on white collar crime.

Many of our readers likely know that quite well from widespread media reports and regular updates on criminal probes relating to alleged wrongdoing in recent years in a number of corporate scandals. Then, too, of course, high-profile criminal and civil investigations have focused on wrongdoing in the housing industry and in the nation's biggest financial companies.

Some commentators on criminal law matters have remarked that many government white collar investigations in recent years have focused on corporate entities more than on the individual employees within them who have committed illegal acts.

A recent New York Times article notes, for example, that, while many large companies have paid fines and inked liability settlements with federal prosecutors, "the Justice Department under President Obama has punished few executives" involved in the many financial scandals that have plagued the nation in the past decade.

The DOJ is now rolling out new policies that officials say will change prosecutorial strategy, with investigations henceforth to be focused on individual employees at all levels from the very beginning. A memo detailing the new guidelines states that government lawyers will now closely scrutinize the conduct of all company workers, "regardless of their position, status or seniority."

Although many high-echelon principals have thus far not been closely targeted in white collar criminal probes, the same certainly cannot be said of lower-level employees in companies where illegal conduct is suspected by federal investigators. In fact, those workers have often borne the brunt of prosecutorial efforts aimed at convictions and prison sentences.

Every person accused of crime -- regardless of his or her status, title or position within the corporate hierarchy -- has a right to a legal defense and to be adjudged innocent unless proven guilty. A proven criminal defense attorney can help promote those constitutional interests and help ensure a fundamentally fair playing field in any instance where the government wields its awesome investigatory powers in a criminal matter.

Source: The New York Times, "Justice Department sets sights on Wall Street Executives," Matt Apuzzo and Ben Protess, Sept. 9, 2015

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