On the Road to Cleaner Air: Jail Time for White-Collar Violators?
By Brandon Kline, Energy Law Fellow
|Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates (middle) is joined by others at a DOJ Summit.|
Significantly, the DOJ investigation unfolds under new guidance from Deputy Attorney General Yates, reflecting six key steps the Justice Department is taking to strengthen the government’s pursuit of individual corporate wrongdoing.
Under the new guidance, DOJ will not resolve VW’s multi-billion dollar civil matter “without a clear plan to resolve related individual cases.”
And apparently, absent “extraordinary circumstances,” culpable individuals will not be released from civil or criminal liability when resolving a matter with a corporation.In conclusion, the Clean Air Act provides a powerful tool for US consumers and regulators (which is more than Europeans can claim). See Yates memo, key steps No. 5 and 6.
Even in spite of the loophole, VW is vulnerable under multiple lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions, and will likely be required to pay civil penalties.
At the same time, DOJ’s handling of the case has the potential to send a strong message to corporate wrongdoers that the U.S. government takes defeat devices very seriously and corporate wrongdoers should be weary of personal liability.