American courts routinely hand down harsh sentences to individual convicts, but a very different standard of justice applies to corporations. Too Big to Jail takes readers into a complex, compromised world of backroom deals, for an unprecedented look at what happens when criminal charges are brought against a major company in the United States. Federal prosecutors benefit from expansive statutes that allow an entire firm to be held liable for a crime by a single employee. But when prosecutors target the Goliaths of the corporate world, they find themselves at a huge disadvantage. The government that bailed out corporations considered too economically important to fail also negotiates settlements permitting giant firms to avoid the consequences of criminal convictions. Presenting detailed data from more than a decade of federal cases, Brandon Garrett reveals a pattern of negotiation and settlement in which prosecutors demand admissions of wrongdoing, impose penalties, and require structural reforms. However, those reforms are usually vaguely defined. Many companies pay no criminal fine, and even the biggest blockbuster payments are often greatly reduced. While companies must cooperate in the investigations, high-level employees tend to get off scot-free. The practical reality is that when prosecutors face Hydra-headed corporate defendants prepared to spend hundreds of millions on lawyers, such agreements may be the only way to get any result at all. Too Big to Jail describes concrete ways to improve corporate law enforcement by insisting on more stringent prosecution agreements, ongoing judicial review, and greater transparency.
Even though corporations are paying record fines for breaking the ever-growing maze of complex laws, prosecutors rarely punish individuals for their misdeeds. Under the pre-arranged deferred prosecution, tough talking federal prosecutors and state attorneys general hardly ever push corporations to modify their behavior if they do not send executives to jail or ban companies from bidding for government contracts.
Brandon L. Garrett teaches law at the University of Virginia School of Law, where he has been a professor since 2005. His research on our criminal justice system has ranged from the lessons to be learned from cases where innocent people were exonerated by DNA tests, to research on false confessions, forensics, and eyewitness memory, to the difficult compromises that prosecutors reach when targeting the largest corporations in the world.
In 2011, Harvard University Press published Garrett's book, "Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong," examining the cases of the first 250 people to be exonerated by DNA testing. That book was the subject of a symposium issue in New England Law Review, and received an A.B.A. Silver Gavel Award, Honorable Mention, and a Constitutional Commentary Award. It is has been translated in Japanand Taiwan, and is China. In 2013, Foundation Press published a casebook, “Federal Habeas Corpus: Executive Detention and Post-Conviction Litigation,” that co-authored with Lee Kovarsky. Garrett's new book examining corporate prosecutions, titled “Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations,” was published by Harvard University Press in Fall 2014. It is currently being translated in Taiwan and Spain. Garrett's law review articles can be downloaded on SSRN.
Garrett's work has been cited by courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, lower federal courts, state supreme courts, and courts in other countries, such as the Supreme Courts of Canada and Israel. Garrett also frequently speak about criminal justice matters before legislative and policymaking bodies, groups of practicing lawyers, law enforcement, and to local and national media. He attended Columbia Law School, where he was an articles editor of the Columbia Law Review and a Kent Scholar. After graduating, he clerked for the Hon. Pierre N. Leval of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He then worked as an associate at Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin LLP in New York City.
Garrett lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with his wonderful family. In all of his spare time, he tries to paint.