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Senators Ask If DOJ Is Too Soft On Corporate Criminals

A U.S. Justice Department official defended the use of settlements that let companies avoid pleading guilty after senators questioned whether prosecutors have been too soft on corporate crime, including by not charging the Sackler family members who own Purdue Pharma. Settlement agreements known as deferred prosecution agreements and nonprosecution agreements, which stop short of requiring corporate guilty pleas, don’t let businesses off the hook, Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri, who heads the department’s criminal division, told the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Those are really serious agreements that are highly negotiated,” she said. “They require forward-looking change by a company. They’re not a pass.”

Senators from both parties raised concerns about the Justice Department’s efforts to crack down on corporate crime. The lawmakers focused on the use of the settlement agreements along with decisions not toprosecute executives. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the committee chairman, questioned the Justice Department’s decision not to bring criminal charges against members of the Sackler family in connection with a 2020 criminal resolution involving Purdue Pharma.  Purdue pleaded guilty to charges related to its efforts to push sales of the opioid painkiller OxyContin, but Sackler family members weren’t charged. “Corporate executives have little incentive to change their criminal conduct without fear of real consequences for their actions,” Durbin said. “Right now, they’re not worried about much more than a measly fine, a rounding error compared to the enormous profits like the Sacklers’.’”


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