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November 7, 2017

Interesting account of "Five myths about white collar crime"

I just saw this notable recent commentary authored by Nicolas Bourtin, a former federal prosecutor, published in the Washington Post outlook section. Here is how the lengthy commentary starts along with the myth headings and the section most focused on sentencing:

Bankers and government officials continue to feature prominently on our newspapers’ front pages — and not in a good way. Since the financial crisis of 2008, a string of political and corporate scandals has played out in our political and financial centers, and recent investigations of people close to President Trump, including Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, have produced indictments for money laundering and tax fraud. Corporate malfeasance, corruption and tax fraud are shrouded in misconceptions. Here are five enduring myths about white-collar crime.

MYTH NO. 1: Prosecutors fear prosecuting powerful defendants....

MYTH NO. 2 White-collar defendants never serve real time.

In the wake of the financial crisis, publications such as Fortune and the Nation have sought to answer why its architects don’t do hard time for their crimes. “Why does the Justice Department appear to have given up on putting white-collar criminals in jail?” Fortune asked. When academics began studying the subject in the 1970s, they noted that federal judges were typically lenient toward white-collar offenders.

Those days are over. Judicial discretion in sentencing was greatly limited by the adoption of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in 1987, whose penalties for fraud were further enhanced after the Enron scandal broke in 2001. And although the Supreme Court held in 2005 that the guidelines were advisory and no longer mandatory for judges, sentences for white-collar defendants have been getting harsher, not more lenient.

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s 2013 Report on Sentencing Trends, nearly 70 percent of all offenders sentenced under the guidelines for fraud received some prison time for their crimes in 2012. In 1985, that rate was about 40 percent. For crimes that caused a loss of at least $2.5 million, the same report revealed that offenders were sentenced under the guidelines to an average of nearly five to 17 years in prison in 2012. In 1985, by comparison, the average sentence for white-collar crimes was just 29 months.

MYTH NO. 3 Trump’s administration won’t enforce anti-corruption laws....

MYTH NO. 4 No one went to prison as a result of the financial crisis....

MYTH NO. 5 Financial crime is the same as robbery or theft....

November 7, 2017 at 11:30 AM | Permalink

Comments

White collar criminals causing damage exceeding the value of a human life, around $6 million, should be treated like murderers.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 7, 2017 2:14:34 PM

As the old saying goes - you can steal more money with a pen than you can a gun....I know from experience, the irreparable harm caused by those white collar defendants to their victims. When you lose your life savings, don't count on the defendant paying back the full amount of restitution. They simply don't have the money any longer. That's part of the reason you see, and I have seen firsthand, very lengthy prison sentences. It is not uncommon to see a white collar defendant get a prison sentence of 20 or 25 years for Ponzi and investment fraud schemes.

Posted by: atomicfrog | Nov 7, 2017 3:50:44 PM

I am not sure about #5, "financial crime" simply covers so much ground. There are certainly items under that umbrella that I would say are the same as any other theft. Robbery is of course another matter as it usually requires the threat or actual use of force.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Nov 7, 2017 4:11:53 PM

Startlingly poorly argued and factually inaccurate argument, White collar criminals, especially those at higher levels of society, are underprosecuted and undersentenced.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Nov 7, 2017 9:41:58 PM

😢👎🏿☠️

Posted by: Docile the Kind Soul | Nov 8, 2017 7:53:04 AM

This is a wildly misleading apples to oranges comparison - the punishment for crimes of greater than $2.5 million in 2013 v punishment for all white collar crimes 30 years ago.
"For crimes that caused a loss of at least $2.5 million, the same report revealed that offenders were sentenced under the guidelines to an average of nearly five to 17 years in prison in 2012. In 1985, by comparison, the average sentence for white-collar crimes was just 29 months."

Posted by: Paul | Nov 8, 2017 11:59:18 AM

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