When OSHA began investigating allegations of unsafe work conditions at facilities owned by Birmingham, Ala.-based McWane Inc., it uncovered a veritable environmental disaster area. Ongoing investigations exposed a litany of serious violations such as employees tampering with air pollution devices, operations that regularly dumped oil into the Delaware River, and such unsafe work conditions that several workers ended up scarred, maimed or, in one case, dead.
But the penalties for violations of OSHA were not stringent enough to deal with the severity of violations found at McWane. So prosecutors from the DOJ's
"Nakayama has publicly stated that he wants to increase the use of criminal sanctions," says Steven P. Solow, a partner at Hunton & Williams, who formerly headed the DOJ's environmental crimes unit.
"SOX, the Sentencing Guidelines and the DOJ all place emphasis on this," Brickey says. "Prosecutors will look at whether it's vigorously enforced and adequately communicated."
Finally, prosecutors are attuned to how seriously companies take their obligations under environmental laws. Toward that end, companies should be prepared to discipline or dismiss managers or employees who don't work within the guidelines you set out.