Wall Street’s top federal prosecutors will show leniency toward banks and firms that self-report possible white-collar crimes early under a new nationwide policy.
Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, on Wednesday announced the voluntary self-disclosure policy aimed at encouraging companies to turn themselves in.
Under the new policy, firms that come forward with misconduct before it becomes known to the public or prosecutors and then fully cooperate will receive “significant benefits” in any resulting deal. These could include not being required to plead guilty to a crime, receiving a lower sentencing recommendation or avoiding charges altogether, the prosecutors said.
“The new voluntary self-disclosure policy is an important step forward in encouraging corporate accountability,” Williams said.
The policy, which will apply to every U.S. attorney’s office in the country, formalizes goals Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco set forth in a September memo revising the government’s approach to corporate criminal enforcement policies. Since then, Wall Street and white-collar defense attorneys have been trying to interpret the new enforcement stance, including when to report and what.
The top prosecutors hope the criteria gives companies a clearer road map of when they should come forward and what benefits they can expect. Peace said he hoped companies took advantage of the policy to report criminal misconduct by employees and agents as soon as they become aware of it.
“When they do, they will have far better and more predicable outcomes under this policy,” he said.
One example of what could happen if corporations don’t come forward occurred in May 2022, when Williams’s office insisted that a unit of Allianz plead guilty to fraud and pay a $5.8 billion penalty. Williams said at the time that while such prosecutions were uncommon, the unit was guilty of “egregious, long-running and extensive fraud.”
The policy’s leniency to companies that self-disclose and cooperate doesn’t extend to individuals involved in wrongdoing, though Williams has also urged cooperators in major cases to come forward as soon as possible. His office has already secured two major guilty pleas to fraud charges stemming from the November collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX and its affiliated hedge fund, Alameda Research.
“If you participated in misconduct at FTX or Alameda, now is the time to get ahead of it,” Williams said on Dec. 21. “We are moving quickly, and our patience is not eternal.”