On September 9, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced new guidelines holding corporate employees, including executives, accountable for corporate wrongdoing. While the new guidelines appear to have been stimulated by the 2008 financial crisis, they will impact healthcare organizations.

Historically, when healthcare organizations were accused of Medicare billing fraud or other violations, the government routinely agreed to settle with the organization and did not pursue individuals except in egregious instances of fraudulent conduct. The new guidance changes that standard and emphasizes “seeking accountability from the individuals who perpetrated the wrongdoing” and allows corporate cooperation credit only  for those companies that provide “all relevant facts relating to the individuals responsible for the misconduct.” No longer will termination of the wrongdoing employee be sufficient. 

Perhaps more importantly, the new standard prohibits the release of culpable individuals from civil or criminal liability when resolving a matter with a corporation, absent extraordinary circumstances. Given this emphasis on the accountability of corporate employees at all levels, healthcare organizations would be wise to heighten their focus on compliance activities.