A Chance for Some Answers About Too Big to Jail

Jonathan Weil joined Bloomberg News as a columnist in 2007, and his columns on finance and accounting won Best in the Business awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2009 and 2010.
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It could be a big day in the debate over too-big-to-jail.

Denis McInerney, the head of the fraud section for the Justice Department's criminal division, is scheduled to make an appearance Friday to discuss the agency's oft-criticized practice of settling major corporate-crime cases without prosecuting the companies. He'll be speaking at a conference in Washington sponsored by the trade publication Corporate Crime Reporter.

There should be some fireworks, too. One of his fellow panelists will be University of Michigan law professor David Uhlmann, a former chief of the Justice Department's environmental-crimes section, who has been an outspoken critic of the government's increasing reliance on deferred-prosecution and non-prosecution agreements.

Why is it, for example, that the Justice Department's antitrust division and environmental-crimes unit tend to demand guilty pleas from corporate defendants, but large banks are almost always allowed to settle investigations without them?

"We're hoping to kick off a national conversation about the double standard in our criminal-justice system -- one for corporations and one for individuals," said Russell Mokhiber, the editor of Corporate Crime Reporter.

There surely needs to be one.

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To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Weil at jweil16@bloomberg.net