On September 9, 2015, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ or the Department), Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates issued a memorandum to all U.S. Attorneys regarding individual accountability for corporate wrongdoing (Yates Memo).

The point of the Yates Memo is clear: while DOJ will continue to pursue companies for corporate wrongdoing, the Department will also simultaneously pursue charges against individual employees. According to the Yates Memo, “[b]ecause a corporation only acts through individuals, investigating the conduct of individuals is the most efficient and effective way to determine the facts and extent of any corporate misconduct.”

And the ultimate target of these efforts? Corporate executives. The DOJ understands that lower-level employees facing individual civil or criminal liability are likely to cooperate against their superiors, thereby facilitating DOJ’s ability to obtain information necessary to prosecute individuals further up the corporate ladder.


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