House Republicans this week unveiled legislation that would decriminalize a broad swath of corporate malfeasance, a move that injects white-collar crime issues into the thus-far bipartisan agenda on criminal justice reform, reports the Huffington Post. The public debate over criminal justice reform has focused on reducing severe sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. But some influential conservative voices, including the billionaire Koch brothers and the Heritage Foundation, have quietly advocated for curbing prosecution of corporate offenses as well. (Salon went a step further, suggesting that the Kochs had “hijacked” the reform proposal.)
The House bill would eliminate a host of white-collar crimes where the damaging acts are considered merely reckless, negligent or grossly negligent. If enacted, it would make it more difficult for federal authorities to pursue executive wrongdoing, from financial fraud to environmental pollution. A Department of Justice spokesman blasted the legislation, saying it “would create confusion and needless litigation, and significantly weaken, often unintentionally, countless federal statutes.” The House Judiciary Committee will begin marking up its criminal justice reform package, including the latest bill, on Wednesday.