Friday, April 13, 2007

The Decline in FBI White Collar Crime Investigations

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a set of interesting articles (available here) on the decline in white collar crime investigations by the FBI as a result of the shift of agents to counter-terrorism duty in the wake of the September 11 attacks.  According to a study of FBI investigative and case referral statistics, the effect of the manpower shift has been particularly felt in fraud and civil rights cases.  The article states:

White-collar crime investigations by the bureau have plummeted in recent years. In 2005, the FBI sent prosecutors 3,500 cases -- a fraction of the more than 10,000 cases assigned to agents in 2000. 

Civil rights investigations, which include hate crimes and police abuse, have continued a steady decline since the late 1990s. FBI agents pursued 65 percent fewer cases in 2005 than they did in 2000.

In the Western District of Washington, the number of white collar crime case referrals dropped 90% from 2000 to 2005.  Another interesting statistic highlighted in the lead article (here) is that 55% of the Bureau's agents are now assigned to counter-terrorism tasks, and 41% devoted to criminal investigations.  While much of the media focus in white collar crime prosecutions is on the trials of CEOs like Jeffrey Skilling, Joseph Nacchio, and Lord Conrad Black, the cases with the greatest impact are those involving embezzlement from smaller businesses and scams that target the elderly and the lower-middle class, the cases that may no longer be investigated by law enforcement.  (ph)

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