Brandon Garrett's New Book Exposes the Lenient Deals Prosecutors Make with Corporate Criminals

Criminal justice expert Brandon Garrett unveils the downside to the government's use of deferred and non-prosecution agreements, and makes recommendations for improving them, in his new book.

October 9, 2014

University of Virginia School of Law professor Brandon Garrett's new book, "Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations," which will be released this month by Harvard University Press, examines the lenient backroom deals federal prosecutors are increasingly forging with big business.

"Prosecutors have had to compromise because of the pressure they face to resolve these cases and the enormous resources these companies have to defend themselves," Garrett said. "What you see when you unpack these corporate prosecutions is genuinely troubling."

Garrett, an expert in criminal law, is also the author of the book "Convicting the Innocent:  Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong," an investigation of the cases of the first 250 people to be exonerated by DNA testing. Garrett's work has been widely cited by courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, lower federal courts, state supreme courts, and courts in other countries, such as the Supreme Court of Israel and the Supreme Court of Canada.

His new book's title is a play on the notion that some corporations such as large banks and financial institutions are "too big to fail," because a conviction might ruin their ability to do business, and in turn affect the economy. But Garrett said the Department of Justice has extended the "too big to jail" concept to businesses as diverse as pharmaceutical, health care, gas and extraction, and manufacturing corporations, too.

The deals, known as non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements, allow corporations to avoid conviction if they follow a plan of financial restitution and corrective action, often more lenient than would be mandated through the court system. At times, corporations have avoided fines completely.

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