Yates Memo: the Heads vs. Dollars Debate

By Matthew Richardson

The much discussed “Yates Memo” seems to signal that DOJ will now follow the long-anticipated realignment of prosecutions to target individual bad actors over more numerous or more high-profile institutions. This goes to an essentially unanswerable question interested readers might ask themselves: if you want to prevent corporate wrongdoing, what’s more effective, putting fear into actual executives that they might be prosecuted, or hitting the institution with a big enough financial penalty for it to really sting? Put another way, what gets a bigger reaction, taking heads or taking dollars? Reasonable people will disagree, but going forward, perhaps DOJ’s experiment will provide interested parties with some research to consider.