Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division issued the following statement today on changes to the division’s carve-out practice regarding corporate plea agreements:
“Over the years, the Antitrust Division’s efforts to investigate and prosecute price fixing and other cartel conduct have produced outstanding results in holding both corporations and individuals accountable for their wrongdoing. We are committed to continuing these efforts and to build on the division’s past successes.
“Going forward, we are making certain changes to the Antitrust Division’s approach to corporate plea agreements. In the past, the division’s corporate plea agreements have, in appropriate circumstances, included a provision offering non-prosecution protection to those employees of the corporation who cooperate with the investigation and whose conduct does not warrant prosecution. The division excluded, or carved out, employees who were believed to be culpable. In certain circumstances, it also carved out employees who refused to cooperate with the division’s investigation, employees against whom the division was still developing evidence and employees with potentially relevant information who could not be located. The names of all carved-out employees were included in the corporate plea agreements, which were publicly filed in the district courts where the charges were brought.
“As part of a thorough review of the division’s approach to corporate dispositions, we have decided to implement two changes. The division will continue to carve out employees who we have reason to believe were involved in criminal wrongdoing and who are potential targets of our investigation. However, we will no longer carve out employees for reasons unrelated to culpability.
“The division will not include the names of carved-out employees in the plea agreement itself. Those names will instead be listed in an appendix, and we will ask the court for leave to file the appendix under seal. Absent some significant justification, it is ordinarily not appropriate to publicly identify uncharged third-party wrongdoers.
“The Antitrust Division will continue to exclude from the non-prosecution protections of corporate plea agreements any employees whose conduct may warrant prosecution. The division will continue to make these decisions on an employee-by-employee basis consistent with the evidence and the Principles of Federal Prosecution. We will continue to demand the full cooperation of anyone who seeks to benefit from the non-prosecution protection of a corporate plea agreement, and will revoke that protection for anyone who does not fully and truthfully cooperate with division investigations.”