Mitt Romney once said corporations are people, in the sense that their profits end up in people's pockets, and the Justice Department now agrees, in the sense that corporations are made up of people that it can prosecute. The department has launched a push to start punishing the people responsible for white-collar crimes instead of just the corporations they work for, reports the New York Times, which describes it as Attorney General Loretta Lynch's first major policy shift. "Corporations can only commit crimes through flesh-and-blood people," Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates tells the Times, saying those people need to be held responsible and "the public needs to have confidence that there is one system of justice and it applies equally regardless of whether that crime occurs on a street corner or in a boardroom."
Federal prosecutors nationwide have been told to focus more on individual corporate execs and put more pressure on companies to turn over their names, the Wall Street Journal reports, although the new guidelines aren't binding and it's not clear whether they result in more white-collar wrongdoers being jailed. The Journal notes that the Justice Department shift follows heavy criticism of the Obama administration for punishing HSBC with a $1.9 billion fine for money laundering while failing to prosecute individuals involved. In July, Hillary Clinton said that too often, "the human beings responsible get off with limited consequences or none at all," per CBS News, and promised that would change under her administration.