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November 23, 2007

"The Challenge of White Collar Sentencing"

The title of this post is the title of this new article on SSRN from Ellen Podgor (who is co-authors of the gat blog White Collar Crime Prof).  Here is the abstract:

Sentencing white collar offenders is difficult in that the economic crimes committed clearly injured individuals, but the offenders do not present a physical threat to society. This Article questions the necessity of giving draconian sentences, in some cases in excess of twenty-five years, to non-violent first offenders who commit white collar crimes.  The attempts by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to achieve a neutral sentencing methodology, one that is class-blind, fails to respect the real differences presented by these offenders.  As the term white-collar crime has sociological roots, it is advocated here that sociology needs to be a component in the sentencing of white collar offenders.

November 23, 2007 at 01:38 PM | Permalink


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Whether a person robs with a pistol or a pen he or she is a thief and should be sentenced accordingly. The impact of big-time thieves like Jeff Skilling is best represented by loss. While not perfect, loss calculation under 2B1.1 does certainly give some reason and balance to conduct of various fraudfeasors.

The notion that white collar defendants get a raw deal is hogwash and apologia. If anything, those who steal based purely on greed should be punished MORE severely than those who steal and rob to service drug habits or their meager subsistence. When you have had all the benefits of education, wealth and privilege and resort to crime to satisfy your greed (i.e. poor, misunderstood thief Jamie Olis), that behavior is MUCH more dangerous to society than the small time crack fiend who is stealing car radios. Such behavior, besides often impacting thousands (if not millions) of shareholders and innocent employees financially, also injures the marketplace and often cripples other businesses as well.

Prior to SOX and the ramping up of fraud penalties you had situations, like the Milken case, where hugely rich individuals served rather short sentences and opened their fat checkbooks like the Marquis in Tale of Two Cities throwing coins at the children he ran over in his carriage.

Noblesse Oblige.

Fines mean NOTHING to these criminals. Time does... just as with any other thief.

To suggest that the Skillings of the world are not "dangerous" to society and ought to slapped on the wrist is to engage in the worst kind of country-club, sophomoric, asinine pop sociology claptrap this side of a Rudy Giuliani rally.

Posted by: dweedle | Nov 26, 2007 11:42:47 AM

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