Regulators are sending a clear message to white-collar criminals: Do not expect lenient punishments.

According to USA Today, both state and federal regulators want civil settlements stemming from corporate malfeasance to be stiffer than ever. In fact, some regulators are threatening to go straight to trial, without even discussing settlements, and many plan to ask defendants to admit guilt or wrongdoing. Apparently, many feel that the only way to reform tarnished industries is to set solid examples of what wrongdoers will face.

When discussing insurance giant and Putnam parent Marsh & McLennan, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said, "Very simply, very directly, the leadership of that company is not leadership I will talk to, not leadership I will negotiate with."

Spitzer’s colleague in Massachusetts, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, said recently that he would no longer settle with companies that do not admit wrongdoing. Companies and executives often settle with the Securities and Exchange Commission while neither admitting nor denying the charges.

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