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The DoJ’s new guidance on corporate compliance programs

What it is and what it not is

On April 30, 2019, the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DoJ”) released an updated version of its guideline “The Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs”. On 19 pages the revised guideline contains 12 topics and numerous sample questions in relation to the three overarching questions:

  1. Is the corporation’s compliance program well designed?
  2. Is the program being applied seriously and in good faith? In other words, is the program being implemented effectively?
  3. Does the corporation’s compliance program work in practice?

At the American Bar Association Global White Collar Crime Institute in Prague on June 27, 2019, Matthew Miner, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division at the DoJ, stated that he is often asked about the new guideline and wants companies to understand “what this new guideline is and what it not is“.

Mr. Miner confirmed the guidance’s own purpose description by summarizing that it is meant to assist prosecutors in assessing both, the effectiveness of corporations’ compliance programs at the time of the offense as well as the extent to which corporations have taken remedial action by the time the charging decisions or resolutions are made. In this context, he alluded that the DoJ’s plan is to invite and involve other foreign law enforcement practitioners in their prosecution training program to promote the cross-border sharing and alignment of relevant assessment standards.

Mr. Miner, however, stressed that he does not want corporations to perceive the guideline as a one-size-fits-all roadmap for building any effective compliance program. He further mentioned that the DoJ is not a regulator and, therefore, did not aspire to set minimum standards or mandatory regulations. He emphasized that it is of the utmost importance for every corporation to build and develop its own compliance program based on meaningful and regular risk assessments. Companies should focus on really understanding, assessing and remediating their individual risk profiles rather than trying to match every single aspect of the guideline.


A copy of the updated “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs” guidance, dated April 30, 2019 can be downloaded from the DoJ website.