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The Yates Memo: Prosecuting Executives for Corporate Wrongdoing in the Energy Sector

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On Sept. 9, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a national criminal enforcement policy intended to combat alleged corporate misconduct by pursuing criminal charges against individuals. Announced by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, the Justice Department’s second-ranking official, the Yates Memo directs Federal prosecutors to withhold credit for cooperation in criminal investigations unless companies first disclose all relevant facts about the individuals involved in the alleged wrongdoing. Prosecutors should also avoid plea bargains or settlements with corporations unless and until charges against participating individuals are resolved. By ratcheting up pressure on executives, the Yates Memo is widely perceived as a counterweight to public criticisms leveled against the Justice Department that few Wall Street executives were punished for their misdeeds during the Financial Crisis. In this course, Troy A. Eid, an energy lawyer and former United States Attorney, will explore the Yates Memo and the Justice Department’s increased emphasis on policing the fossil fuel industry, reflected by DOJ’s recent pursuit of high-profile criminal charges against CEOs in the coal and oil and gas business.  

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the context and purpose of the Yates Memo

  2. Identify the key components of the Yates Memo and how they may or may not differ from prosecutors’ prior practice

  3. Assess companies’ duties to disclose non-privileged information to Federal investigators about individuals’ alleged wrongdoing

  4. Explore the impact to corporate governance when companies’ own internal investigations merge with Federal criminal investigations

  5. Review the Justice Department’s recent efforts to target executives’ misconduct in criminal investigations involving the energy sector

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