Mapping geographic patterns in federal corporate agreements

Published date11 November 2020
Date11 November 2020
Subject MatterAccounting & finance,Financial risk/company failure,Financial crime
AuthorEmily M. Homer,George E. Higgins
Mapping geographic patterns in
federal corporate agreements
Emily M. Homer
Department of Sociology and Criminology,
University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington,
North Carolina, USA, and
George E. Higgins
University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Purpose The purpose of this studyis to use crime mapping techniques to examine geographic patternsof
signed deferred and non-prosecutionagreements across federal districts. The purpose is also to examine the
variationin the number of agreements by the district since 1992.
Design/methodology/approach This study uses data from the Corporate Prosecution Registry to
examine geographic patterns in federal corporate agreements since 1992 (n= 534). Choropleth mapping techniques
were used to create national crime maps displaying the geographic locations of signed corporate agreements.
Findings The results showed that, overall, prosecutorsin the District of Columbia have signed the most
federal corporateagreements although there is some variation over time.
Research limitations/implications This study is unable to determine the causes of changes in the
geographic placement or number of agreements signed. It is also unable to determine the precise geographic locations
of crimes, but only the location of the District Court that elected to pursue a fe deral agreement with the organization.
Practical implications The wide discretion prosecutors have in the agreementprocess has led to an
overall lack of transparency concerning prosecutorsdecision-making when signing agreements with
organizations.This study helps to make the number and geographiclocation of agreements more transparent.
Originality/value This study uses crime mapping techniquesto visually depict the locations of signed
agreementsallowing for visual comparisons and analyzesfor an extended period of time.
Keywords Corporate crime, Deferred prosecution agreement, Federal corporate agreements,
Federal prosecution of organizations, Geographic patterns, Non-prosecution agreement
Paper type Research paper
Although not capable of committing crime,organizations can prof‌it from crimes committed
by their employees. The US Sentencing Commission def‌ines an organization as aperson
other than an individual(United States Sentencing Commission, 2018, p. 510).
Organizations thathave been adjudicated as responsible for benef‌itting from crimes are able
to be penalized for their actions. In some instances, organizations are charged and found
guilty of crimes, which earns them a criminal conviction and penalty (United States Justice
Manual, 2015). In other instances, organizations sign pretrial diversion agreements with
federal prosecutorsto pay a penalty in exchange for not being criminally charged. The same
penalties are available for organizations that sign agreements as those that have been
convicted, although organizations that sign agreements may not be penalized to the same
extent as those convicted. These pretrial diversion agreements, described in more detail
below, will be referredto collectively as federal corporate agreements throughoutthis paper.
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.28 No. 2, 2021
pp. 464-479
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JFC-08-2020-0152
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Federal prosecutors have wide discretion in the process of initiating and signing federal
corporate agreements. Prosecutors often make choices regarding signing agreements
independently of each other and oftenwithout input from other actors in the criminal justice
system (Garrett, 2007), leadingto variation across the country. As will be described further,
this process lacks transparency, which has been identif‌ied as a problem by both scholars
and practitioners (United States Government Accountability Off‌ice, 2009). This study will
provide informationthat can assist in understanding the jurisdictions whereagreements are
being signed. Using data from 1992to the present, the purpose of this paper is to illuminate
the changing geographicprof‌ile in the signing of federal corporate agreements using a series
of choropleth maps. Knowingthe areas where agreements are being signed will increase the
transparency of the process and could be used to improve consistency. Using mapping
techniques can also help predict future trends (Hill and Paynich, 2013). The results of this
study can be used to investigate the likelihood of agreements being signed by examining
prosecutorial decision-makingwithin and between federal districts across the country.
Literature review
The USA is separated into 94 DistrictCourts, with many states having more than one court,
as well as District Courts for the District of Columbia and four US territories (Puerto Rico,
the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands) (United States Courts, 2019).
Prosecutors in these District Courts are responsible for resolving known disputes between
parties regarding federal matters (United States Courts, 2019). The multiple federal
prosecutors withineach district have a large amount of discretion in the process of resolving
these disputes, specif‌ically when using federal corporate agreements. The prosecutorsuse
of federal corporate agreements has not been consistent within and across districts. Before
further examining the geographic distribution of these agreements, we must present some
background on the use of agreements.
Federal corporate agreements are benef‌icial for both prosecutors and organizations,
although in different ways. For the government, the signing of agreements presents three
main benef‌its. First, signing agreements is more cost-effective for prosecutors and
communities and offers a greater assurance of penalizing an organization compared to a
trial (Alexander and Lee, 2017;Podgor, 2017;Robinson et al., 2005). Second, agreements
allow prosecutors to compel cooperation from organizations in investigating crimes
(Alexander and Lee, 2017). Third, agreements can require organizations to reform their
corporate structuresto prevent future crime (Garrett, 2007).
Compared to criminal convictions, agreements can be preferable for organizations in
multiple ways. First, agreements help organizations avoid some of the consequences of a
criminal indictment, which include the loss of public trust, stigma, downsizing and loss of
prof‌its. Second, agreements may provide less distraction for employees compared to
undergoing a trial (Garrett, 2007;Podgor, 2017). Third, agreements may protect innocent
people connected to the organization from the pain of a trial, including shareholders or
employees who may not have been responsible or knowledgeable of the criminal activity.
Fourth, agreements helporganizations keep operating with a corollary that the organization
may generate prof‌it that can be used as restitutionfor victims (United States Justice Manual,
2015). With these benef‌itsto government and organizations, the use of corporate agreements
has expanded in past years (Garrett,2017), leading to questions of what is happening during
the agreement process and how decisionsare being made.
Most of the research on federal corporate agreements comes from the legal literature,
focusing on the prosecutors roleand discretion in the agreement process. Largely, the focus
of this literature has been on the lack of transparency in the corporate agreement process.

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