Despite repeated claims to the contrary by top officials at the U.S. Department of Justice, the federal criminal prosecution of corporate violators has declined substantially in the last decade, falling by 29 percent between 2004 and 2014, says the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. Official statements bragging about government efforts to combat corporate crime, often issued after the latest major business scandal has made the news, have been a regular feature of the Washington scene for many years. Then-Attorney General Eric Holder said last year that, “instilling in others an expectation that there will be tough enforcement of all applicable laws is an essential ingredient to ensuring that corporate actors weigh their incentives properly — and do not ignore massive risks in blind pursuit of profit.”
FBI directors also have repeatedly emphasized the importance of the bureau’s investigations that focus on corporate crime. In March, FBI director James Comey told the the Senate Appropriations Committee that “corporate fraud” as one of eight serious “threats and challenges” facing the American people and law enforcement. Still, the Justice Department’s own data providie strong evidence about the extraordinarily small and declining number of corporate prosecutions.