On June 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) published a revised version of its guidance on the “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs” (the “June 2020 Guidance”). Like its predecessors in February 2017 and April 2019, the June 2020 Guidance provides greater transparency regarding DOJ’s expectations for corporate compliance programs and demonstrates DOJ’s willingness to listen to and incorporate the experiences of the business community into its internal policies. The additions to the Guidance provide valuable insight into DOJ’s views of how the compliance environment is evolving, and focusing on these additions should prove valuable to compliance and legal professionals looking to enhance or benchmark an existing compliance program.
In February 2017, the Fraud Section in DOJ’s Criminal Division released the original “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs” Guidance (“the Guidance”). The stated purpose of the document was to provide a list of “some important topics and sample questions that the Fraud Section has frequently found relevant in evaluating a corporate compliance program” and included a list of 11 topics (and 119 questions) to that end. The increased transparency provided by the Guidance received a generally positive reception from the legal and business communities. The Guidance provided useful direction for companies not only undertaking or responding to investigations but also designing or enhancing compliance programs, or simply wishing to benchmark an existing compliance program against the government’s expectations.
On April 30, 2019, the Assistant Attorney General (“AAG”) for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Brian Benczkowski, announced the release of an updated version of the February 2017 Guidance (“the revised Guidance”)—a document that provided more information and guidance as to how prosecutors conducting corporate investigations should assess a company’s compliance program. Our prior alert discussed some of the more noteworthy changes in the revised Guidance, including its emphasis on a company’s ability to develop a risk-based approach to compliance and third-party management.
In announcing the June 2020 Guidance, AAG Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division explained that the document “reflects additions based on our own experience and important feedback from the business and compliance communities.” The June 2020 Guidance leaves much of the substance from earlier versions unchanged; however, there are a number of useful updates for businesses and in-house professionals looking to enhance a company’s compliance program and/or benchmark a program against DOJ expectations. These more recent updates also demonstrate DOJ’s ongoing efforts to improve its policies and provide greater transparency and clarity to companies looking to comply with DOJ policy.
Below we discuss some of the key aspects of the June 2020 Guidance.
 Dylan Tokar, Justice Department Adds New Detail to Compliance Evaluation Guidance, Wall Street Journal (June 1, 2020).