Justice Department lawyers who prosecute errant corporations and executives are bringing in a new member to the team — a full-time expert in compliance programs.
Andrew Weissmann, who leads the Fraud Section in the criminal division at the Justice Department, said the new hire is all part of a plan to reduce corporate crime.
"We are seeking to assure that companies have tough but realistic compliance programs that detect and deter individual wrongdoing by executives," Weissmann said. "Importantly, our compliance counsel will be instrumental in ferreting out whether a corporate compliance program is truly effective or a mere paper tiger."
Officials have settled on a candidate, whom they declined to name while that person undergoes a requisite background check. Sometime in the next six to eight weeks, the compliance hire will join other subject-matter experts — such as accountants and forensic specialists — who work alongside prosecutors in the criminal division at the Justice Department. The new expert will play a big role in determining whether businesses targeted for prosecution have engaged in systemic misconduct or whether the criminal activity is limited to a few bad apples, Weissmann said.
That's an important question for prosecutors and judges, since it can lead to larger monetary penalties, fines and even the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee a business' operations. Recently, those issues were at the forefront of Justice Department decisions to void earlier settlements with UBS over allegations of new wrongdoing in foreign currency trades.
"We're federal prosecutors, but part of what we have to do in our jobs is assess compliance programs," Weissmann said. "That's not our bread and butter."
He said the arrival of a lawyer with a substantial background will give the department greater credibility in negotiations with business.
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