Nobody would look at how the government handled white-collar fraud cases after the financial crisis, when big bankers who sent the economy into chaos escaped criminal charges and often got promoted, and see some kind of model. Nobody, that is, except for James McDonald, the new enforcement chief at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), an obscure US agency that oversees the $483 trillion derivatives market.
In a Monday night speech in New York City, McDonald announced a new initiative to provide significant benefits to financial institutions that “self-report” crimes and cooperate with investigators. In exchange, he said, companies might see civil penalties slashed, and in some instances, cases dropped altogether. A former federal prosecutor, McDonald noted the idea originated in gang prosecutions—he’s done a lot of those—where it made sense to let individuals report on higher-level colleagues in exchange for leniency.