With the change of presidential administrations in January 2017, it was expected that the priorities of the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) would shift away from white-collar crime enforcement and towards immigration, violent crime, and narcotics enforcement. But recent data actually show a significant uptick in both prosecutions and convictions of individuals by the DOJ Criminal Division’s Fraud Section in 2018 over the previous two years. Moreover, the amount of money the DOJ recovered from companies through Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) or Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs) skyrocketed in 2018 .
In early 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a new policy encouraging prosecutors handling False Claims Act (FCA) cases to seek dismissal of qui tam complaints that threaten the government’s interests. However, it was unclear how and to what extent prosecutors would carry out that directive. Now a year later, federal prosecutors appear to be embracing the new policy—and it is already having an effect on one case involving a drug manufacturer.
The January 2018 Granston memorandum outlined the Department’s new approach to handling FCA prosecutions in “in light of the government’s limited resources.” Under the new policy, prosecutors are encouraged to move to dismiss qui tam claims as a way to “advance the government’s interests, preserve limited resources, and avoid adverse precedent.” This marked a departure from the Department’s previous policy of rarely exercising its statutory authority to dismiss such claims. To guide prosecutors, the memorandum offered a nonexhaustive list of factors as to when a motion to dismiss a qui tam claim is proper. Those factors include: (1) “curbing meritless qui tams”; (2) “preventing parasitic or opportunistic qui tam actions”; (3) “preventing interference with agency policies and programs”; (4) “controlling litigation brought on behalf of the United States”; (5) “safeguarding classified information and national security interests”; (6) “preserving government resources”; and (7) “addressing egregious procedural errors.” Overall, the memorandum instructed prosecutors to seek dismissal when the litigation does not serve the government’s interests.
On November 29, 2018, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) much-anticipated revisions to the September 2015 Memorandum on “Individual Accountability for Corporate Wrongdoing,” commonly known as the “Yates Memo” and named for Rosenstein’s predecessor, Sally Q. Yates. The Yates Memo emphasized the importance of holding individuals accountable for corporate misconduct, and set forth principles for DOJ prosecutors to follow in determining when corporations would qualify for “cooperation credit” in corporate criminal and civil investigations. The most significant—and controversial—provision in the Yates Memo required that “in order to qualify for any cooperation credit, corporations must provide to the Department all relevant facts relating to the individuals responsible for the misconduct.” The new policy announced by Rosenstein modifies this “all or nothing” approach to cooperation credit by giving DOJ prosecutors and civil attorneys more flexibility.
In announcing the new policy, Rosenstein reaffirmed the Department’s commitment to prosecuting individual wrongdoers, stating that, “The most effective deterrent to corporate criminal misconduct is identifying and punishing the people who committed the crimes.” However, he stated that the lack of flexibility in the Yates Memo’s approach impeded resolutions and wasted resources, and in some cases was not strictly enforced.
On October 11, 2018, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Brian A. Benczkowski issued new guidance on the selection of corporate compliance monitors in Criminal Division matters. The Benczkowski Memorandum signals a shift toward a more business-friendly approach to the imposition and use of monitors by the DOJ. Among other new provisions, the guidance directs prosecutors to weigh the potential benefits of a monitor against the costs and burdens on the company, and to consider whether the company’s existing compliance program and controls obviate the need for a monitor.
Read the full Alert on the Duane Morris LLP website.
The clash between state and federal law regarding the use of medical marijuana continues to present an ongoing dilemma for courts around the country, as illustrated by a recent decision by the Eighth Circuit. In the United States v. Schostag, the Eighth Circuit affirmed a decision by the District Court of Minnesota barring a felon from using state-legal medical marijuana while he is on supervised release.
To read the full text of this blog post, please visit the Duane Morris Cannabis Industry blog.
Duane Morris partners Christopher Casey and Damon Vocke will present a complimentary Directors Roundtable program, “Dealing with Corporate Crisis,” on Thursday, June 28, 2018, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Deloitte Conference Center in New York City. For more information or to register, please visit the Directors Roundtable website.
By Jovalin Dedaj
After an intervening decision by the United States Supreme Court last year and a rare rehearing of oral argument in March, the Second Circuit has affirmed the conviction of Matthew Martoma, a former portfolio manager at S.A.C. Capital Advisors. In doing so, the Second Circuit has signaled a substantial shift in insider trading law by reversing course from its 2014 decision, which made prosecuting insider trading cases more difficult. Continue reading The Second Circuit Loosens The Reins On Insider Trading Prosecutions
By Michael E. Clark and Amanda L. Bassen
In yet another modification by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to Obama administration policies, on July 19, 2017, Attorney General Jefferson Sessions announced a policy reviving the criticized civil asset forfeiture practice that allows the DOJ to forfeit assets seized by state or local law enforcement. The Attorney General’s order (the “Order”) authorizes the federal forfeiture of property seized under state law by state and local law enforcement agencies when alleged criminal conduct purportedly violates federal law (referred to by the DOJ as “federal adoption”). The Order allows for the seizure of cash and other personal property from individuals suspected of crimes, but not yet convicted or charged. Continue reading Back to the Future (Part II) – The Expansion of Civil Asset Forfeiture
By Michael E. Clark and Amanda L. Bassen
On May 12, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum, dated May 10, 2017 (the “Sessions Memorandum”), ordering stricter charging and sentencing policies to the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in conducting federal prosecutions. The Sessions Memorandum announced that the DOJ must charge and pursue “the most serious, readily provable” offenses. Attorney General Sessions defined such offenses as those carrying the greatest sentence under the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“USSG”), including sentences carrying mandatory minimum terms of incarceration. Continue reading Back to the Future
By Mauro M. Wolfe and Jovalin Dedaj
In yet another setback for the SEC, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that disgorgement actions, a cornerstone of SEC enforcement, are subject to a five-year statute of limitations. Continue reading Reining in the SEC: The Supreme Court Limits Disgorgement to a Five-Year Statute of Limitations