For Immediate Release: November 29, 2022
Contact: Ralph Nader or Francesco DeSantis, , 202-320-6344, [email protected]
New Legislation Would Mandate DOJ Create Database of Corporate Criminal Offenses
Rep. Scanlon and Sen. Durbin’s Bill Would End Differential Treatment of Corporate versus Street Crime Data
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumer safety, labor, environmental and other groups lauded a new bill introduced today by U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) and Sens. Durbin (D-IL) and Blumenthal (D-CT). The “Corporate Crime Database Act” would require the Justice Department to establish and update a database of criminal, civil or administrative proceedings against corporations, and to make it available to the public for free via the Internet. This bill would also mandate that the DOJ issue an annual report analyzing trends in corporate crime, corporate recidivism, the impact of corporate crime on victims, and legislative and administrative remedies.
The Department of Justice, through the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), already maintains a publicly accessible database on street crime, known as the Uniform Crime Reporting Program or UCR. The UCR keeps the public informed about trends in street crime. Moreover, the annual report on street crime published by BJS generates news coverage and greater public awareness about street crime. Though the UCR tracks certain white collar crimes, no equivalent exists for corporate crime. This legislation would finally create rap sheets for corporations, ensuring parity of information between crime in the streets and crime in the suites.
This database will be a key resource for prosecutors seeking to build cases against corporate Goliaths. In the Fall of 2021, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco sketched out improvements for the Department of Justice’s approach to corporate crime. The new DOJ guidelines instructed prosecutors to “consider a company’s full criminal, civil and regulatory record when considering how to resolve an investigation into wrongdoing.” In September of 2022, Monaco issued further revisions to DOJ’s corporate criminal enforcement policies, stressing again that “Consideration of a company’s historical misconduct harmonizes the way the Department treats corporate…criminal histories, and ensures that prosecutors give due weight to an important factor in evaluating the proper form of resolution.”
However, information on a corporation’s full criminal, civil, and regulatory record is silo-ed by the various agencies and departments that might have brought charges or sanctioned a corporation. Moreover, corporations and their subsidiaries go to great lengths to obscure their collective misdeeds using elaborate shell games. It is clear that prosecutors need a centralized database containing more complete and robust corporate crime data.
On October 20, 2022 Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Durbin, along with Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut, joined Congresswoman Scanlon in writing a letter to DOJ urging the Department to “begin collecting corporate crime data Department-wide and publicizing that information through annual reports and a regularly updated database,” noting that “These steps would further improve DOJ’s corporate crime enforcement process and bolster the American people’s faith in a fair and equal justice system for all.”
Ralph Nader and other prominent corporate criminal justice advocates sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland in January 2022 calling on him to create a database of corporate crime. These advocates compared the dearth of corporate criminal accountability tools to “as if the Department of Education had no measures for how well our children learn, or if the U.S. Department of Agriculture had no idea of how much wheat or corn our farmers grow.” The Department of Justice and Bureau of Justice Statistics has the statutory authority to create this database without authorization from Congress.
Activists have advocated for the creation of such a database since the release of Marshall B. Clinard’s report on “Illegal Corporate Behavior,” in 1979. Similar bills were introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) in the 112th, 113th, 114th, and 115th Congresses. No bill was introduced in the 116th Congress.
In a letter of support for this bill signed by 35 groups, Rick Claypool, research director for Public Citizen, writes that “In order to protect the American public from corporate lawbreaking, law enforcement agencies must collect and disclose to the public the information they need in order to effectively allocate law enforcement resources. The significant work that agencies perform to protect the public from corporate lawbreakers is too important to be hard to understand by the public. Providing this data in a uniform federal system, as the Corporate Crime Database Act will do, is the clear and obvious answer.”