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September 30, 2008

When will the latest economic crisis become a criminal justice story?

Traditional economic markets rarely play a direct role in the criminal justice arena (though I believe punishment systems would be much improved if subject to rigorous cost/benefit analysis).  But dramatic economic realities always become a criminal justice story in some indirect way, sometimes through crime-and-justice budget cuts in tough times (or excessive spending in good times), sometimes through increases in certain types of crimes because of market realities. 

Consequently, I have little doubt that the current credit crunch will become a criminal justice story at some point; the real question is just when and how.  On this basic topic, David Zaring over at the Conglomerate asks a fitting question in this new post, "Who Is Going to Jail for All of This?".  Here is a snippet:

One of the rules of financial crises is that some business executives end up doing time after they happen. You can ask yourself if the punished executives are chosen through a fair process, whether other executives avoid prosecution for essentially the same conduct, and so on, but... but ex-post white collar tends to be part of the bureaucratic response....

Who is going to be the villain of this crisis, and who should lawyer up? It's pure speculation, but I think AIG is more likely to get Enronized than Lehman, and I suspect that Congress, quite hypocritically, will be baying for a little blood from Fannie and Freddie.

Put another way, this is probably a good time to "buy stock" in any law firm specializing in white-collar defense.  Indeed, law students concerned about what the economic crisis could mean for large firm employment might want to sign-up ASAP for any courses offered in White-Collar Crime and/or Federal Criminal Law and Sentencing.

September 30, 2008 at 12:08 PM | Permalink


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