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Discussion: Why Are Big Companies Rarely Ever Punished?

iStock photo: KeithBinns

Thanks for participating! You can see the full chat here, and a selection of highlights here.  

Today, we co-published a story with the New York Times Magazine on the rise of corporate impunity. In sum: a series of missteps by the Department of Justice has left the agency ill-equipped to go after individuals at the top echelons of Corporate America. Now, in addition to banks that are Too Big To Fail, we have companies and CEOs that are Too Big To Prosecute.

The number of white-collar cases chased by the Department of Justice has fallen from an average of 17.6 percent of all federal cases in the mid-90s, to just 9.4 percent in the past five years. The agency received major backlash after shutting down consulting firm Arthur Andersen in 2002 and leaving tens of thousands out of a job.

After a federal judge ruled that the Justice Department violated constitutional rights by asking KPMG. executives to waive attorney-client privilege, the agency has become so cautious that it rarely acts against corporate indiscretion. Though Lehman Brothers misled the public about how much cash it had on hand before it filed for bankruptcy, the Department of Justice doesn’t appear to have pursued the investigation aggressively.

Why is the Justice Department failing to tackle the most basic questions in cases of wrongdoing? What would it take to beef up their capacity for prosecution? And if we do so, are these companies and people really above the law?

Join us on Reddit on May 1 at 11 A.M. EST to ask Jesse your questions. We’ll update this post Thursday morning with the link. Afterward, we’ll round up the best questions and answers.

You can also leave questions in advance in the comments here, or tweet them with #AskProPub.

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