Justice Makes Corporate Deals, Avoids Trials

'Deferred prosecutions' cheaper, but may tempt companies to cheat
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2008 9:43 AM CDT
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft denied that a $52 million oversight deal for his consulting company represents a conflict of interest.   (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Instead of indicting major corporations for fraud and other forms of malfeasance, the Bush administration is relying more and more on deferred prosecutions, allowing companies to pay a fine and accept monitoring instead of going to trial. The name of the monitor and the details of the agreement are often kept secret, the New York Times reports.

The department says deferred prosecutions are an easier and cheaper form of punishment, but the Times wonders whether the shift toward fines over trials may be encouraging companies to try to get away with questionable business practices. Former AG John Ashcroft defends the practice that has benefited his consulting firm: “A deferred prosecution can avoid the catastrophic collateral consequences and costs that are associated with corporate conviction.”