DOJ’s Latest Expectations on Compliance and Voluntary Self-Disclosure

Compliance and Self-Disclosure

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is unwavering in its commitment to pursuing corporate crime across all industries, with a strong focus on individual accountability. High-profile cases involving figures like Sam Bankman-Fried, Elizabeth Holmes, and former president Donald Trump’s family-owned Trump Organization illustrate the DOJ’s resolve to hold individuals accountable, regardless of their status.

The message of the DOJ’s latest standards on compliance and voluntary self-disclosure is clear: no one is above the law.

Unified Guidance Across Divisions

Each of the DOJ’s divisions – including its Criminal Division, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, Tax Division, Environmental Crimes Section, and Environment and Natural Resources Division – has released updated guidance aligning with their unique missions and jurisdictions. This coordinated approach ensures consistency in combating corporate crime effectively.

June 2020 ECCP Update

The June 2020 update to the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (ECCP) introduced three core questions that guide the DOJ’s assessment of a corporation’s compliance program:

Is the Corporation’s Compliance Program Well-Designed?

A well-designed compliance program is the foundation of any effective corporate compliance strategy.

The DOJ looks for several key elements in evaluating the design of a compliance program:

  • Risk Assessment: Companies must regularly conduct comprehensive risk assessments to identify potential areas of compliance risk. This involves evaluating the specific risks faced by the organization, including those related to its industry, operations, and geographic locations.
  • Policies and Procedures: Effective policies and procedures should be in place to address identified risks. These documents must be clear, accessible, and regularly updated to reflect changes in laws and regulations. They should also outline the consequences of non-compliance.
  • Training and Communications: Employees at all levels should receive regular training on compliance policies and procedures. Effective communication channels should be established to ensure that employees are aware of their responsibilities and feel comfortable reporting potential violations.
  • Confidential Reporting Structure and Investigation Process: Companies should have mechanisms for employees to report misconduct confidentially. An effective investigation process must be in place to address reports of misconduct promptly and thoroughly.
  • Third Party Management: Organizations must have due diligence procedures for third parties, such as suppliers and partners, to ensure they comply with relevant laws and the company’s standards.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A): During M&A activities, companies should conduct thorough compliance due diligence to identify and address potential compliance risks.

Is the Program Adequately Resourced and Empowered to Function Effectively?

An effective compliance program requires adequate resources and support from senior management.

The DOJ assesses whether a company has:

  • Commitment by Senior and Middle Management: Leadership must demonstrate a clear commitment to compliance by actively supporting and participating in the compliance program. This includes providing necessary resources and setting a strong ethical tone at the top.
  • Autonomy and Resources: The compliance function should have sufficient autonomy and resources to operate effectively. This includes having a dedicated compliance team with the authority to enforce compliance policies and conduct investigations.
  • Compensation Structures and Consequence Management: Compensation and incentive structures should align with compliance goals. Employees should be rewarded for ethical behavior and adherence to compliance standards. Conversely, there should be clear consequences for non-compliance.

Does the Corporation’s Compliance Program Work in Practice?

A compliance program is only effective if it works in practice. By focusing on three core questions, the DOJ ensures that corporations not only have well-designed compliance programs, but also that these programs are adequately resourced and effective in practice:

  • Continuous Improvement, Periodic Testing, and Review: Companies should continuously improve their compliance programs by conducting regular reviews and updates. Periodic testing helps identify weaknesses and areas for improvement.
  • Investigation of Misconduct: When misconduct is reported, companies must have robust procedures for investigating and addressing the issue. This includes ensuring that investigations are thorough, impartial, and timely.
  • Analysis and Remediation of Underlying Misconduct: After identifying misconduct, companies should analyze the root causes and take appropriate remedial actions. This may include revising policies, enhancing training programs, or disciplining individuals involved in the misconduct.

The Monaco Memo and Its Impact

Corporate Compliance

Creation of the Corporate Crime Advisory Group (CCAG)

In 2021, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Lisa Monaco announced the creation of the Corporate Crime Advisory Group (CCAG). This group, incorporating perspectives from business, academia, and the defense bar, was established to recommend guidance on corporate criminal enforcement. The CCAG’s diverse input ensures practical and effective DOJ policies.

Monaco Memo 2.0 Directives

The latest directives from the Monaco Memo mandate that each DOJ division must develop and publish a voluntary self-disclosure policy. The key principles include:

  1. No guilty plea required if a company voluntarily self-discloses, cooperates, and remediates misconduct, provided there are no aggravating factors.
  2. No independent compliance monitor needed if an effective compliance program is in place and tested at resolution.

These directives aim to encourage transparency and cooperation from corporations, incentivizing them to come forward with information about misconduct.

DOJ’s Compliance and Self-Disclosure Policies: 

1. Focus on Individual Accountability

The DOJ’s commitment to holding individuals accountable is evident in recent high-profile cases. Swift verdicts, like the one against Sam Bankman-Fried, highlight the DOJ’s determination to bring wrongdoers to justice. This focus ensures that corporate leaders understand the personal risks of engaging in misconduct.

2. Incentives for Voluntary Self-Disclosure

The DOJ offers significant benefits for companies that voluntarily self-disclose misconduct. These benefits include:

  • Avoiding guilty pleas and criminal penalties.
  • Potential for declination with disgorgement of profits.
  • No compliance monitor imposed if certain conditions are met.

By providing these incentives, the DOJ aims to foster a culture of transparency and cooperation within corporations.

3. Conditions for Receiving Incentives

To qualify for these incentives, companies must meet specific conditions:

  1. Immediate disclosure upon awareness of misconduct.
  2. An effective compliance program at the time of misconduct and disclosure.
  3. Extraordinary cooperation with the DOJ’s investigation and remediation efforts.

These conditions ensure that only truly committed companies benefit from the DOJ’s leniency.

   4. Consequences of Non-Compliance

The bar for voluntary self-disclosure is high, and companies that fail to meet DOJ expectations risk severe penalties. A guilty plea may be required if misconduct:

  • Poses a grave threat to national security, public health, or the environment.
  • Is deeply pervasive within the company.
  • Involves current executive management.

Companies that do not proactively address these issues face significant legal and reputational risks.

DOJ Investment in Technology

Investment in Compliance Technology

The DOJ has invested in new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to enhance its ability to process large volumes of data during investigations. This technological advancement is crucial for efficiently identifying and prosecuting corporate crime. This is especially helpful in instances involving egregious and extensive breaches of data security standards at the corporate level.

Supporting Prosecutors and Civil Attorneys

The DOJ is also focused on adequately resourcing its investigations and prosecutions, ensuring that prosecutors and civil attorneys have the tools they need to combat corporate crime effectively.

Building a Strong Culture of Compliance

A trust-based corporate culture is essential for effective compliance programs. The DOJ emphasizes that leadership must set the tone from the top, demonstrating a commitment to ethical behavior and accountability. Without buy-in from top executives, even well-designed compliance programs can fail.

Practical Steps for Companies

To build a strong culture of compliance, companies should:

  1. Start strong with a clear mission and values that emphasize ethical behavior and compliance.
  2. Create incentives for rule-following, ensuring that employees are rewarded for adhering to compliance standards.
  3. Embed accountability at every organizational level, making sure that everyone, from top executives to entry-level employees, understands their role in maintaining compliance.

Practical steps include regular training, open lines of communication for reporting misconduct, and clear policies that are consistently enforced. Companies should also conduct periodic reviews of their compliance programs to ensure they are effective and up-to-date.

Continuous Improvement

Effective compliance programs require continuous improvement. Periodic testing, review, and updates are necessary to adapt to new risks and regulatory changes. Companies should regularly evaluate their compliance efforts and make adjustments as needed.

Case Studies:

FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried

The case against Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) and FTX provides a stark example of what can go wrong when compliance and ethical standards are ignored. SBF, the founder of FTX, was charged with multiple counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud against FTX’s customers and Alameda’s lenders, among other charges.

Steal Money

Compliance Failures

FTX’s downfall can be attributed to several key compliance failures:

  1. Lack of a well-designed compliance program: FTX’s compliance measures were insufficient to detect or prevent fraudulent activities.
  2. Inadequate resources and empowerment: The compliance team lacked the resources and authority needed to enforce regulations and investigate misconduct.
  3. Failure to work in practice: The compliance program that existed did not function effectively, allowing widespread fraud to occur undetected.

DOJ’s Response

The DOJ’s swift action against SBF and FTX illustrates its commitment to prosecuting corporate crime. The verdict against SBF was reached with jarring speed. The jury took just 5 hours in the deliberation room before reaching a verdict that upholds the DOJ’s initial intense response to SBF’s misconduct.

Lessons Learned

The FTX case teaches several critical lessons:

  1. Dynamic compliance programs are essential: Companies must have compliance programs that evolve with changing risks and regulatory landscapes.
  2. Leadership commitment is crucial: Without commitment from the top, compliance programs cannot succeed.
  3. Transparency and immediate disclosure are vital: Companies that promptly disclose misconduct and cooperate with investigations can avoid the most severe penalties.

Trump Organization Fraud Case

The Trump Organization fraud case is another high-profile example of the DOJ’s efforts to hold individuals and corporations accountable for misconduct. This case involves allegations of tax fraud, bank fraud, and other financial crimes committed by the Trump Organization and its executives.

Compliance Failures

The Trump Organization’s compliance failures include:

  1. Misrepresentation of financial information: The organization allegedly manipulated financial statements to secure loans and avoid taxes.
  2. Inadequate internal controls: Weak internal controls allowed fraudulent activities to go undetected and unreported.
  3. Involvement of top executives: High-ranking executives, including former President Donald Trump, are under fire for their misconduct.

DOJ’s Response

The DOJ’s investigation into the Trump Organization emphasizes its commitment to pursuing corporate crime at the highest levels. The case has garnered significant media attention and underscores the importance of transparency and accountability in corporate governance.

Lessons Learned

The Trump Organization case emphasizes several key points:

  1. Importance of accurate financial reporting: Companies must ensure they report financial information accurately and transparently.
  2. Robust internal controls are crucial: Effective internal controls can prevent and detect fraudulent activities.
  3. Accountability of top executives: High-ranking executives in particular should be accountable for their actions.


The DOJ’s latest updates on compliance and self-reporting underscore its unwavering dedication to prosecuting corporate crime, placing a strong emphasis on individual accountability. Central to this guidance is the promotion of voluntary self-disclosure, the establishment of robust compliance programs, and the cultivation of a culture steeped in ethical behavior.

By adhering to the DOJ’s standards, corporations can mitigate their legal exposure and equally importantly, foster a culture of integrity and accountability that benefits all stakeholders. The current standard incentivizes companies to proactively disclose any misconduct and fully cooperate with investigations to mitigate the risk of severe penalties. Moreover, those that fall short of meeting the DOJ’s expectations face significant legal and reputational risks.

The high-profile cases of FTX and the Trump Organization serve as potent reminders of the repercussions of disregarding compliance obligations. The DOJ’s latest emphasis on individual accountability serves as a potent deterrent against corporate malfeasance. This reinforces the importance of maintaining exemplary ethical standards in all facets of business operations.

Future Articles

In future articles, we will delve deeper into the details of the FTX and Trump Organization cases, exploring the specific compliance failures, DOJ responses, and the broader implications for corporate governance and accountability.

Catherine Darling Fitzpatrick

Catherine Darling Fitzpatrick is a B2B writer. She has worked as an anti-bribery and anti-corruption compliance analyst, a management consultant, a technical project manager, and a data manager for Texas’ Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Catherine grew up in Virginia, USA and has lived in six US states over the past 10 years for school and work. She has an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When she isn’t writing for clients, Catherine enjoys crochet, teaching and practicing yoga, visiting her parents and four younger siblings, and exploring Chicago where she currently lives with her husband and their retired greyhound, Noodle.

Posted in Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *