After Years of Citizen Pressure, Justice Department Launches Corporate Crime Database

After years of citizen pressure to create a public corporate crime database, the Justice Department this week surprisingly and without public notice did just that.

Ralph Nader

The Department of Justice now has a corporate crime page that includes links to voluntary self disclosure and monitoring policies, guidance and speeches and – remarkably – a corporate crime database page.

The searchable corporate crime database includes only eleven cases so far. But the Justice Department is promising to populate it with all of the cases in its system from Main Justice and all 93 U.S. Attorneys offices.

For more than ten years now, Ralph Nader and related public interest groups have been calling the Justice Department to create such a database, arguing in 2014 that “the failure to measure can lead to sloppy thinking, bad decision making and entrenched neglect.”

“It is as if the Department of Education had no measures for how well our children learn, or if the U.S. Department of Agriculture had no idea of how much wheat or corn our farmers grew,” Nader and the groups wrote.

In November 2022, Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pennsylvania) and Senators Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), introduced legislation called the Corporate Crime Database Act that would require the Department to collect, aggregate, analyze, and publish comprehensive data on federal corporate criminal enforcement actions. 

“Currently, there is no comprehensive national data collection on corporate crime and no centralized database of federal enforcement actions against corporations that the public can view,” the legislators argued.

“We believe that comprehensive, national data collection and a searchable public database of the results of federal enforcement actions against corporations and individual actors engaging in corporate misconduct would provide better oversight, inform the Department of Justice’s corporate criminal prosecution practices, and demonstrate the effectiveness of corporate sanctions—which is exactly what our bill aims to do,” Durbin said.  “I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this common sense legislation to curtail corporate crime.”

“This legislation will aid efforts to fight criminal corporate conduct. Collecting and reporting data on enforcement actions against white-collar criminals are essential to holding wrongdoers accountable.  By providing this critical information, the Corporate Crime Database Act will deter future crimes and protect victims,” Blumenthal said.             

“While the Department of Justice regularly collects data on nearly every type of street-level crime, there is very little reporting of corporate and white-collar crimes, with the last thorough Department of Justice report on corporate crime being in 1979,” said Scanlon. “Without data or transparency, lawmakers, journalists, and the public are left in the dark about the size and scope of corporate crime in America and the effectiveness of the federal government’s response.”

The eleven entries in the Justice Department database is a far cry from the Corporate Prosecution Registry from the University of Virginia and Duke University, which includes more than 4400 entries or Violation Tracker from Good Jobs First with over half a million entries that include civil and criminal actions against corporate wrongdoing.

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