On Monday, April 24th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed participants at the Ethics and Compliance Institute (ECI) Annual Conference and shared some important messages with compliance professionals.
Attorney General Sessions began his remarks by commenting that it may not be typical for the Attorney General to participate in this type of event, but he felt it was an excellent opportunity to share his message. He also acknowledged that he understands that there may be some uncertainty during a change of administration or leadership at the Department of Justice.
General Sessions thanked the compliance professionals for their efforts in ensuring that their companies and clients “do the right thing”. He stated that the work of compliance professionals makes their job easier and makes our country better. He went on to say, “On behalf of the Department of Justice, I thank you, once again, for doing this vital work. We have done our part to reward effective compliance programs and to better understand your efforts; you have my commitment that we will continue to do so.”
Attorney General Sessions addressed the Department’s ongoing objective to hold individuals personally accountable for their involvement in corporate misconduct stating, “The Department of Justice will continue to emphasize the importance of holding individuals accountable for corporate misconduct. It is not merely companies, but specific individuals, who break the law. We will work closely with our law enforcement partners, both here and abroad, to bring these persons to justice.”
Charging Decisions; Cooperation and Self-Disclosure = Penalty Reductions
When addressing charging decisions (the Department must analyze facts and law to determine if their is enough evidence to indict or charge a company with fraud), Attorney General Sessions stated, “Also, when we make charging decisions, we will continue to take into account whether companies have good compliance programs; whether they cooperate and self-disclose their wrongdoing; and whether they take suitable steps to remediate problems.”
“For years, the Department of Justice has directed our prosecutors to consider these factors when making charging decisions. The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines also provide for substantial penalty reductions for companies that self-disclose, cooperate and accept responsibility for their misconduct. These principles will still guide our prosecutorial discretion determinations.”
Attorney General Sessions concluded by saying, “Our economy, and indeed, our whole system of self-government, depends on people believing that those who choose to disregard the law will be caught and punished. This is ultimately the responsibility of the Justice Department. But more broadly, it depends on people and companies choosing of their own accord to obey the law and do the right thing. Making this happen is a larger task – one that is entrusted to all of us. Each of you plays an essential role in this work.”
The message shared by Attorney General Jeff Session is not new to compliance officers, but with the change in leadership at the Department of Justice, it is important and instructive to know where he stands on enforcing compliance. It is clear that the DOJ will continue to pursue non-compliance both at a corporate and individual level. The DOJ will enforce laws to protect honest businesses. As Attorney General Sessions said, “Companies that obey the law and do the right thing should not be at a disadvantage simply because their competitors choose to break the rules.” In today’s world, this is something we can all agree with.
Written by Donna Thiel, Director of Compliance Integrity Team
Donna Thiel is the Director of our Compliance Integrity team, a consulting division of ProviderTrust. Donna works with compliance officers across the country to help reduce the stress and anxiety of this very difficult role.