In 1991, the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) amended its guidelines. The amendments incentivized business owners to act in compliance with regulations and the law. Those changes opened opportunities for prosecutors to grant leniency, non-prosecution agreements, or deferred-prosecution agreements to businesses that put “effective compliance programs” in place.
Theoretically, if business leaders designed effective compliance programs, their efforts would show a good-faith effort toward corporate responsibility. By building a record demonstrating that they want all team members to act appropriately, leaders reduce risk levels. Although no one can eliminate the possibility of a government investigation, good records will serve as an excellent defense mechanism.
As we’ve stated throughout, although business leaders can control personal decisions, they cannot observe decisions that other people on their team make. For those reasons, leaders should add training on the personal costs that can accompany an investigation or a prosecution for white-collar crime.
Agencies within the Department of Justice now incentivize businesses to make bigger investments in compliance. Guidance from 2019 advises federal prosecutors to consider the following questions when evaluating corporate compliance programs: