Companies facing criminal prosecution could get lesser penalties if they have established compliance programs to address white-collar crime within their ranks, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission has proposed changes that would give companies credit at sentencng if they have programs designed to deter white collar crime. Only those companies whose compliance officer is responsible for detecting criminal activity and has direct access to the board of directors will qualify for the credit. In theory, the structure allows the problem to be brought before "the highest levels of the company," and the authorities, quickly, Commission chair William Sessions notes.
With the changes and the resulting sentencing credit, which will mean reduced fines, the Commission hopes to help companies that were "trying to obey the law even when their officers had not done so." It's a means of "circumventing the people responsible for the illegal act," Sessions says. Observers also note that the new system will be better for the shareholders who, up to now, essentially have been punished both by the loss incurred in the fraud and by the fines resulting from the fraud.
The Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal in mid March, and then vote in April.