The Dark Side of Non-Prosecution Agreements

When Campaign for Accountability first looked at the Macau gambling activities of the Las Vegas Sands (LVS) and its CEO Sheldon Adelson, we were struck by what seemed like a pattern of money laundering.  In 2013, the Justice Department reached an agreement with LVS where, to avoid criminal prosecution, LVS agreed to return more than $47 million sent to its Venetian casino by high-stakes gambler and drug trafficker Zhenli Ye Gon.  Now there is evidence the LVS may be at it again, having apparently teamed up with Chinese gangsters known as the Chinese triads to lure high rollers to its Macau gambling enterprise.

These kinds of non-prosecution agreements are nothing new.  In fact, according to a report by law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, in 2014 DOJ used non-prosecution agreements “aggressively,” and their use is expected to explode in 2015.  At first blush, this may look like a good thing; Gibson Dunn’s report characterized these and deferred prosecution agreements as “a vital part of the federal corporate law enforcement arsenal” that allows the government “both to punish and reform corporations accused of wrongdoing.”

Of course what Gibson Dunn fails to mention is that these agreements also allow the firm’s corporate clients caught up in illegal activity to avoid criminal penalties.  Indeed, we see a much more pernicious side to non-prosecution agreements.  As with LVS, they leave companies free to sin again.  And they avoid the full public accountability that comes with a prosecution and trial.

In the coming weeks look for CfA to shine a spotlight on instances where non-prosecution agreements have been used to paper over criminal misconduct and avoid public accountability.