Corporate prosecutions under President Biden remain in the abyss after reaching record lows under President Trump, according to new government data. Only 90 corporations either pled guilty or were found guilty of federal crimes in 2021, despite ostensible policy shifts by the U.S. Department of Justice toward tougher enforcement, Public Citizen reports. The report covers fiscal year 2021 and is based on an analysis of federal corporate prosecution data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission and the Corporate Prosecution Registry, a joint project of Duke University and the University of Virginia that tracks criminal enforcement actions against corporations. Federal prosecutions of corporate criminals plunged into double digits for the first time in 25 years under President Trump, down to record lows of 99 in 2018 and 94 in 2020. Corporate prosecutions have fallen by two-thirds from the peak of 296 in 2000.
The report outlines several recent DOJ policy shifts that should lead to higher levels of enforcement. “The Biden DOJ’s policy changes away from Trump’s soft-on-corporate-crime approach suggest enforcement against corporate lawbreakers should be ramping up, but the numbers for 2021 don’t reflect those changes,” said Rick Claypool, and author of the report. The report shows the simultaneous trends of declining corporate prosecutions and increasing corporate leniency agreements: deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements. Leniency agreements made up a quarter of all resolutions of federal cases against corporations accused of crimes in 2021. This is down from Trump’s final year, when nearly a third of corporate crime cases were resolved this way.