As if the nuances of corporate governance aren’t tough enough to fathom, now the government is playing word games. On Aug. 28, Prudential Financial, Inc., signed what it thought was a nonprosecution agreement with Michael Sullivan, the U.S. Attorney in Boston. But once the deal was done, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty called a press conference in Washington, D.C., to trumpet the “deferred prosecution agreement.”

McNulty’s comment has led some corporate advocates to question the government’s credibility. The question of what to call the Prudential pact isn’t just a matter of semantics — a deferred prosecution deal carries more of a stigma than a nonprosecution agreement.

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