When you’re facing legal challenges, law feels like a daunting maze. If you, or someone you know, have been arrested or charged with a crime, Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA) might come up. Let’s break these down, simply.

A DPA is essentially a deal between the prosecution and the defendant. Instead of going straight to trial, the defendant agrees to meet certain conditions, like paying fines, or improving company practices. If they stick to their end of the bargain, the charges can be dropped. Think of it as a second chance to prove good behavior without the stain of a conviction.

DPAs are not the same as Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPA), though they sound similar. An NPA means the prosecutor decides not to file charges at all, as long as the individual or company meets specific terms. With a DPA, charges are filed but the prosecution is paused — a subtle but important difference.

Globally, DPAs are recognized but not uniform. In the US, they’re an option for both civil and criminal cases, offering a way to address issues without a trial. The UK, Canada, and France have followed suit, tailoring DPAs mostly towards corporate misconduct. Each country has its own set of rules on when and how DPAs can be applied.

So, if you’re snagged in legal troubles and hear “DPA”, now you know it’s a possible exit route from full-blown prosecution. It’s a chance to set things right, but with strings attached.

Infographic showing the step-by-step process of entering a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, from the initial charges and negotiations, through to fulfilling the agreement's conditions and ultimately having the charges dismissed. - deferred prosecution agreement example infographic infographic-line-5-steps

Examples of Deferred Prosecution Agreements

Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) are like a bridge for companies to cross troubled waters without falling into the depths of legal turmoil. They offer a chance to rectify wrongdoings while avoiding the harsher consequences of criminal prosecution. Let’s dive into some high-profile examples, the nuts and bolts that hold these agreements together, and the financial implications that come with them.

High-Profile DPA Examples

  • JPMorgan Chase & Co.: In a notable deferred prosecution agreement example, JPMorgan agreed to pay over $920 million in fines, disgorgement, and victim compensation for its role in unlawful trading activities. This case underlines the significant financial and ethical commitments a DPA may entail for a corporation.
  • Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC): Without diving into the specifics, SAIC’s agreement to avoid prosecution by meeting certain ethical and operational benchmarks showcases how DPAs can serve as a catalyst for corporate reform.
  • Petrobras: The Brazilian oil giant’s agreement highlighted international cooperation in DPAs, involving payments exceeding $850 million, divided among authorities in the United States, Brazil, and Switzerland, demonstrating the global reach and implications of such agreements.

Key Components of a DPA

  1. Charging Document: This is the starting point, where the government formally lays out the charges but agrees not to proceed immediately with prosecution.
  2. Restitution: Companies often agree to compensate victims. This is not just about giving back; it’s a public acknowledgment of the harm caused.
  3. Compliance Program: A critical component, requiring the company to either establish or enhance internal controls and compliance efforts to prevent future misconduct.
  4. Cooperation with Investigations: Companies must agree to fully cooperate with ongoing investigations, which can include handing over documents and making employees available for interviews.

Financial Implications

  • Criminal Monetary Penalty: This is often the headline number, representing a significant financial punishment for the wrongdoing. For example, JPMorgan’s penalty was a substantial part of their $920 million total payment.
  • Disgorgement: This requires the company to give up any profits made from its illegal activities. It’s not just about punishment; it’s about ensuring crime doesn’t pay.
  • Victim Compensation: Beyond penalties and disgorgement, companies often have to directly compensate those harmed by their actions, ensuring that victims are not forgotten in the resolution of corporate misconduct.

In summary, DPAs are complex agreements with serious implications for companies caught on the wrong side of the law. They offer a path to make amends through financial penalties, operational reforms, and cooperation with authorities. However, they also carry the weight of potential prosecution should the company fail to meet its obligations. It’s a tightrope walk, balancing the opportunity for redemption against the risk of significant legal and financial consequences.

Now, as we understand the structure and stakes of DPAs, let’s explore how to navigate the potential pitfalls and ensure compliance, to not only avoid further legal jeopardy but to foster a culture of integrity and accountability within organizations.

Navigating DPA Violations and Compliance

Navigating Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) can feel like walking a tightrope. It’s all about balance—maintaining your company’s compliance while steering clear of violations that can have serious consequences. Let’s break down how to avoid these violations, understand their potential consequences, and ensure ongoing compliance.

Avoiding DPA Violations

Avoiding violations starts with a strong foundation in a Compliance & Ethics Program. This isn’t just about having a policy in place; it’s about creating a culture where ethical behavior is the norm.

  • Regular Training: Ensure that all employees understand their roles in compliance, with ongoing education about what’s expected.
  • Clear Communication: Make it easy for employees to ask questions and report concerns without fear of retaliation.
  • Proactive Monitoring: Don’t wait for issues to arise. Regularly review and adjust your compliance efforts.

An Independent Monitor can be a game-changer here. Think of them as an external set of eyes, helping to ensure that your compliance program isn’t just for show. They can provide unbiased feedback and suggest improvements based on their findings.

Cooperation Obligations are also key. This means being transparent with regulators, providing them with the information they need, and working together to address any issues that arise.

Consequences of DPA Violations

Failing to adhere to a DPA can lead to:

  • Prosecution Resumption: The deal’s off, and your company could be facing the charges that the DPA had put on hold.
  • Financial Penalties: These can be steep, adding to the company’s financial burdens.
  • Legal and Reputational Damage: The court of public opinion can be unforgiving, and the legal repercussions can haunt your company for years.

Ensuring Compliance

Ensuring compliance is an ongoing effort. It’s not just about avoiding penalties; it’s about building a better, more ethical business. Here’s how:

  • Compliance Program Enhancements: Regularly review and improve your compliance efforts. What worked last year might not be enough this year.
  • Regular Audits: These help identify potential issues before they become problems. Think of audits as a health check-up for your company’s ethical practices.
  • Training and Education: Keep your team informed and engaged. Make sure they understand why compliance matters and how they can contribute.

Compliance Training - deferred prosecution agreement example

A DPA isn’t just a hurdle to clear; it’s an opportunity to reassess and strengthen your company’s commitment to ethical business practices. By focusing on avoiding violations, understanding the consequences of non-compliance, and continuously enhancing your compliance program, you can navigate the complexities of DPAs with confidence.

As we move towards wrapping up our discussion on DPAs, it’s clear that while they offer a path to redemption, they also demand a high level of responsibility and integrity from companies. The journey doesn’t end with signing a DPA; it’s just beginning.


In our journey through Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs), we’ve uncovered their nuances, dissected examples, and navigated potential pitfalls. Now, as we conclude, let’s crystallize the benefits, address the challenges, and explore how COLaw provides tailored defense strategies that align with your needs.

Benefits of DPAs

A Second Chance: DPAs offer organizations a lifeline, allowing them to avoid the repercussions of a criminal conviction. This can preserve a company’s reputation, safeguard jobs, and ensure continued operations.

Restorative Justice: Through restitution and compliance measures, DPAs focus on correcting wrongs and preventing future offenses, rather than purely punitive action. This approach benefits victims, the community, and the company itself.

Incentive for Cooperation: DPAs encourage companies to come clean and cooperate fully with investigations, fostering a culture of transparency and accountability.

Challenges and Considerations

Strict Compliance: The terms of a DPA can be stringent, requiring significant changes to operations, culture, and governance. Meeting these demands requires dedication and resources.

Public Scrutiny: Entering into a DPA doesn’t shield a company from public judgment. Stakeholders, including customers and investors, may still view the agreement as an admission of wrongdoing.

Monitoring and Costs: Compliance with a DPA often involves external monitors and ongoing audits, leading to substantial costs over the agreement’s lifespan.

COLaw: Tailored Defense Strategies

At COLaw, we understand the complexities and nuances of DPAs. Our approach is not one-size-fits-all; we craft defense strategies that are as unique as your situation. Here’s how we can help:

  • Expert Guidance: Navigating DPAs requires a nuanced understanding of the law. Our experienced team offers the expertise to guide you through every step, ensuring that you understand your obligations and opportunities.
  • Custom Compliance Programs: We help develop and implement robust compliance programs that not only meet the terms of your DPA but also strengthen your organization’s ethical foundation.
  • Ongoing Support: Our commitment doesn’t end with the agreement. We provide ongoing support to ensure your company remains in compliance, helping you avoid potential violations that could lead to prosecution.
  • Advocacy and Negotiation: Should challenges arise, we’re your advocates, ready to negotiate on your behalf and represent your interests to prosecutors and monitors.

Deferred Prosecution Agreements represent a complex blend of opportunity and obligation. While they offer a path away from prosecution, they demand rigorous adherence to their terms. At COLaw, we’re here to help you navigate these waters, ensuring that your journey through a DPA leads to a stronger, more compliant organization.

For a tailored defense strategy that aligns with your unique needs, explore our services at COLaw. Together, we can navigate the complexities of DPAs with confidence, ensuring your organization not only survives but thrives.

In the end, DPAs are about more than avoiding prosecution; they’re about fostering a culture of integrity and accountability. With the right approach and the right partner, your company can emerge from this process not just unscathed, but improved.