Voluntary Self-Disclosure Policy
Policy Sets Standard for Circumstances Under Which Companies May Receive Credit for Voluntarily Self-Disclosing Criminal Conduct and Benefits of Self-Disclosure
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine has implemented the new United States Attorney’s Offices’ Voluntary Self-Disclosure Policy released February 22, 2023. The policy, which is effective immediately, details the circumstances under which a company will be considered to have made a voluntary self-disclosure (VSD) of misconduct to a United States Attorney’s Office (USAO), and provides transparency and predictability to companies and the defense bar concerning the concrete benefits and potential outcomes in cases where companies voluntarily self-disclose misconduct, fully cooperate and timely and appropriately remediate.
The goal of the policy is to standardize how VSDs are defined and credited by USAOs nationwide, and to incentivize companies to maintain effective compliance programs capable of identifying misconduct, to expeditiously and voluntarily disclose and remediate misconduct, and to cooperate fully with the government in corporate criminal investigations. The policy was developed pursuant to the Deputy Attorney General’s September 15, 2022 memorandum, “Further Revisions to Corporate Criminal Enforcement Policies Following Discussions with Corporate Crime Advisory Group” (Monaco Memo), which directed each Department of Justice (DOJ) component that prosecutes corporate crime to review its policies on corporate voluntary self-disclosure and, if there was no formal written policy to incentivize self-disclosure, draft and publicly share such a policy.
Under the new VSD policy, a company is considered to have made a VSD if it becomes aware of misconduct by employees or agents before that misconduct is publicly reported or otherwise known to the DOJ, and discloses all relevant facts known to the company about the misconduct to a USAO in a timely fashion prior to an imminent threat of disclosure or government investigation. A company that voluntarily self-discloses as defined in the policy and fully meets the other requirements of the policy, by—in the absence of any aggravating factor—fully cooperating and timely and appropriately remediating the criminal conduct (including agreeing to pay all disgorgement, forfeiture, and restitution resulting from the misconduct), will receive significant benefits, including that the USAO will not seek a guilty plea; may choose not to impose any criminal penalty, and in any event will not impose a criminal penalty that is greater than 50% below the low end of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG) fine range; and will not seek the imposition of an independent compliance monitor if the company demonstrates that it has implemented and tested an effective compliance program.
The policy identifies three aggravating factors that may warrant a USAO seeking a guilty plea even if the other requirements of the VSD policy are met:
(1) if the misconduct poses a grave threat to national security, public health, or the environment;
(2) if the misconduct is deeply pervasive throughout the company; or
(3) if the misconduct involved current executive management of the company. The presence of an aggravating factor does not necessarily mean that a guilty plea will be required; instead, the USAO will assess the relevant facts and circumstances to determine the appropriate resolution.
If a guilty plea is ultimately required, the company will still receive the other benefits under the VSD policy, including that the USAO will recommend a criminal penalty of at least a 50% and up to a 75% reduction off the low end of the USSG fine range, and that the USAO will not require the appointment of a monitor if the company has implemented and tested an effective compliance program.
In cases where a company is being jointly prosecuted by a USAO and another DOJ component, or where the misconduct reported by the company falls within the scope of conduct covered by VSD policies administered by other DOJ components, the USAO will coordinate with, or, if necessary, obtain approval from, the DOJ component responsible for the VSD policy specific to the reported misconduct when considering a potential resolution. Consistent with relevant provisions of the Justice Manual and as allowable under alternate VSD policies, the USAO may choose to apply any provision of an alternate VSD policy in addition to, or in place of, any provision of its policy.