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Justice Department gets tough on lawbreaking Wall Street executives

By Amy R. Connolly
Attorney General Loretta Lynch delivers remarks at the Antitrust Division's Assistant Attorney General Awards on June 10 in Washington, D.C. The Justice Department vowed Wednesday to prosecute Wall Street executives -- not just their companies -- involved in financial fraud. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Attorney General Loretta Lynch delivers remarks at the Antitrust Division's Assistant Attorney General Awards on June 10 in Washington, D.C. The Justice Department vowed Wednesday to prosecute Wall Street executives -- not just their companies -- involved in financial fraud. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The Justice Department vowed to prosecute Wall Street executives -- not just their companies -- involved in financial fraud and to step up pressure on corporations to turn over evidence against their employees.

The new rules, issued in a memo Wednesday to all 93 federal prosecutors nationwide, are the first major policy announcement by Attorney General Loretta Lynch since she took office in April. The memo all but acknowledges ongoing criticism that powerful executives have escaped criminal charges in favor of corporate monetary penalties.

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"Corporations can only commit crimes through flesh-and-blood people," Sally Q. Yates, the deputy attorney general and author of the memo, told The New York Times. "It's only fair that the people who are responsible for committing those crimes be held accountable. The public needs to have confidence that there is one system of justice and it applies equally regardless of whether that crime occurs on a street corner or in a boardroom."

After the 2008 financial crisis, no top Wall Street executives went to prison, instead billions were collected from big banks that included JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup. The new rules could erase some barriers to prosecuting white-collar crimes that often target the corporation itself.

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According to the memo, new restrictions will be placed on corporations that don't report misconduct.

"Our mission here is not to recover the largest amount of money from the greatest number of corporations; our job is to seek accountability from those who break our laws and victimize our citizens," Yates is expected to say in a speech Thursday, according to excerpts obtained by CNN. "There is real value, however, in bringing civil cases against individuals who engage in corporate misconduct, even if that value cannot always be measured in dollars and cents."

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