Sunday, March 9, 2008

White Collar Crime Prosecutions Are Down

Criticisms previously levied against the  statistical reporting of white collar crime remain justified in that lacking a definition of white collar crime, it is impossible to discern what gets included and what doesn't. (See here and here) Whether one limits it to fraud, or includes money laundering and RICO, were concerns mentioned when evaluating studies that reported on increases and decreases in certain kinds of criminal conduct. Without a clear understanding of what crimes or conduct fit the white collar category, it seemed impossible to state with accuracy that it had in fact decreased.

But the latest study by TRAC, does provide clear evidence that agency referrals in many areas are significantly down, while others have increased.  For example, one finds that INS (and DHS Immigration Enforcement) is nearly 3 times what it was in 1987.  But one also sees that tax, postal, and the FBI referrals are significantly reduced. (see here)  TRAC notes that:

"A second possible explanation for the declining number of referrals being made by the agencies traditionally concerned about white-collar criminals is that there are fewer swindlers, anti-trust violators, tax cheats, fraudulent health care providers, etc. roaming the streets and the suites than there were in the past. Partly because such criminals try very hard to go unnoticed, however, criminologists have never been able to devise a good way to measure their presence in society. But given the vast size and booming nature of the American economy — at least until recently — and the growing complexity of federal law, the thought that white-collar criminals are an endangered species is hard to believe. "

And I have to agree with the last statement - white collar criminals are definitely still out there.  But perhaps the enforcement needs to turn to places like the Internet and to focus on the crimes of today - like Identity Theft. The investigation and prosecution here takes significant time and the statistics may be harder to grow.

(esp) (w/ disclosure that she is a B.S. graduate of Syracuse U.- home of the Trac Reports).

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