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Is the U.S. Justice System Failing in Prosecuting Corporate Crime?

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PHOTO: Today's conference is titled "Neither Admit Nor Deny: Corporate Crime in the Age of Deferred Prosecutions, Consent Decrees, Whistleblowers & Monitors." CREDIT: Krystian Olszanski
PHOTO: Today's conference is titled "Neither Admit Nor Deny: Corporate Crime in the Age of Deferred Prosecutions, Consent Decrees, Whistleblowers & Monitors." CREDIT: Krystian Olszanski
WASHINGTON – High-ranking officials with the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are expected to get an earful today on corporate crime at a national conference in Washington.

Organizer Russell Mokhiber says when regular Americans commit a crime, they do the time, but companies that break the law are often let off the hook with some sort of special deal.

"Either a non-prosecution agreement, a deferred prosecution agreement, or, on the civil side with the SEC, a consent decree where they pay a fine,” he says. “But neither admit nor deny violating the law."

Mokhiber, who is the editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, says today's gathering on what he calls the double standard in the criminal justice system will include prosecutors, defense attorneys and corporate activists.

He says one example of the double standard is the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia in 2010 that left 29 miners dead. Mokhiber explains the Justice Department found that the root cause was the wrongdoings and law violations of Massey Energy, but the company settled its criminal liabilities with a $200 million payment.

"When you or I, if we engage in similar reckless behavior – say driving down the highway at 30 miles over the speed limit and we lose control,” he says. “We don't intend to kill someone, but we do. We're going to end up in the slammer."

Mokhiber adds corporate criminal activity inflicts far more damage on society than street crime and yet there's a lack of accountability for these companies.

"We're going to end up paying the price,” he says, “if we keep playing favorites with the powerful, with the people who can afford the big law firms, with the people who marinate inside the beltway lobbying groups to get what they want and who get off the hook, only because of their power."

Today's conference is at the National Press Club and is titled "Neither Admit Nor Deny: Corporate Crime in the Age of Deferred Prosecutions, Consent Decrees, Whistleblowers & Monitors." Details are at bit.ly/12sWFro.