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U.S. Attorney offers companies a deal if they confess to federal crimes

U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh's Twitter page
U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh delivers the commencement address at a Roanoke Police Academy graduation ceremony last year.

If company managers learn that one or more of their employees broke federal law, they’re left with some big questions.

“Do we turn ourselves in? Do we remediate the conduct? Do we punish people, and most importantly if we do turn ourselves in, what happens if we do?”

Chris Kavanaugh, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, says the answer used to depend on which of 93 U.S. attorneys would bring charges. That’s why he and seven other federal prosecutors crafted a single policy for firms that do the right thing.

“If you’re a corporation or you’re a company and you come forward, and you tell the government about the wrong-doing, and you do so in a timely manner, and you tell us all the facts around it, then you’re guaranteed that the United States will not seek a criminal conviction, and any fines will be greatly reduced.”

Management may fear the impact of prosecution.

“It could cause the company to lose government contracts, licenses and it can cause the company to completely go out of business which affects its employees and the people who live here in Virginia as well,” Kavanaugh says.

And some might prefer to wait and see if they get caught, but Kavanaugh vows that they will.

“It can be through a whistle blower from within. It can be through the enormous amount of reporting requirements that these corporations have. it could be our own investigators.”

And he warns that this new, voluntary self-disclosure policy won’t apply under certain circumstances.

“If we’re already investigating a company for X, Y and Z, and you come forward at that time, then that’s still great. You’re doing the right thing, and you will receive a benefit for that, but you don’t get the guarantee.”

Nor will the feds cut companies as much slack if their crimes involved top management, jeopardized national security, public health or the environment.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief