January 30, 2017
Before her last stand refusing to enforce the Muslim Ban and subsequent firing, Sally Quillian Yates was best known for authoring the Yates Memorandum. This policy directive, released over a year ago in apparent response to criticism of the Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) handling of cases related to the nation’s financial crisis, directed DOJ prosecutors to focus on holding individuals accountable through criminal prosecutions. Today, entities embroiled in criminal investigations continue to pay massive fines and plead guilty to criminal charges, but these investigations have led to few individual convictions. In this article, we discuss the differences between white collar corporate and individual prosecutions, explain how establishing individual criminal liability has proven difficult for prosecutors, and conclude that the Yates Memorandum may not materially alter the landscape. Thus, Yates may be remembered more for her letter refusing to enforce the Muslim Ban as unjust, not for the Yates Memorandum.