Sunday, January 25, 2009

White Collar Crime Blog Makes Top 20

The rankings are out and this blog was ranked 18th for visitors (was 16th last year), but moved up from 18th into 16th place for page views on the 2008 Law Prof Blog Traffic Rankings (see here for a discussion of this importance of page views).  The rankings process and time period covered are described on Paul Caron's Tax Prof Blog here 

Your readership is appreciated, so thank you for clicking this way.


January 25, 2009 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 - What Will We See

What's Coming in 2009

The New Year delivers a variety of interesting cases and issues in the white collar crime field, and many unresolved issues from last year. What can we expect to see (in no particular order):   

  • confirmation hearing on Eric Holder
  • a new Attorney General with new policies and procedures
  • Madoff - investigation, prosecution (perhaps a plea), sentencing?
  • Blagojevich - will he be indicted and will it hold up?
  • Jeff Skilling - a judicial opinion
  • a re-evaluation of the merits of corporate criminal liability
  • an SEC with increased regulatory power
  • fraud as a new criminal law emphasis
  • more judges sentencing outside the confines of the sentencing guidelines

Obviously, there will be plenty more.  But I am confident that white collar crime will have a key focus in the upcoming year.  So stay tuned to this blog.  Your readership is appreciated and I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and peaceful new year.


January 1, 2009 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 White Collar Crime Awards

2008 White Collar Crime Awards

Each year this blog has honored individuals and organizations for their work in the white collar crime arena by bestowing "The Collar" on those who deserve praise, scorn, acknowledgment, blessing, curse, or whatever else might be appropriate. I welcome comments from readers who would like to suggest additional categories or winners (or losers?).

With the appropriate fanfare, and without further ado,

The Collars for 2008:

The Collar for Best Supporting Actor - to the attorneys who represented actor Wesley Snipes, who was found not guilty of fraud and conspiracy and guilty of three misdemeanors

The Collar for Worst Stretching Exercise - to the prosecutors who charged Ben Kuehne with money laundering based upon his writing an opinion letter, a charge that was dismissed by the court

The Collar for Keeping the Biggest House of Cards Standing for the Longest Period of Time - Bernie Madoff is the leading contender

The Collar for Knowing When to Quit - to former plaintiffs tobacco litigation lawyer Dickie Scruggs who plead guilty to a single count

The Collar for the Best Autopsy on a Case - to former county coroner Cyril Wecht for his extensive post-trial arguments calling for no re-trial

The Collar for the Best Flip-Flop by a Former Prosecutor - to former Enron Task Force prosecutor Andrew Weissman, who argued for limits to corporate criminal liability in an amicus in the Second Circuit Ionia case

The Collar for the Most Efficient Decision - to Judge Posner, who wrote the opinion affirming Conrad Black's decision twenty days following oral argument

The Collar for the Most Bang for the Buck - Jack Abramoff, who in 2006, won The Collar for the Best Cooperating Witness, and in 2007 The Collar for the Best Skating Not on an Ice Rink (along with Andy Fastow)

The Collar for the Most Often Indicted Political Position - there is a recount on this one with Ted Stevens arguing that he can't be counted in the Senate category until after sentencing, Rod Blagojevich claiming that he should be able to be included in both the Senate and Governor category, and a text message received from former Detroit Mayor Kwane Kilpatrick asked whether we were including Puerto Rico's Governor in the count

The Collar for the Best Timing - a tie between DOJ for issuing new guidelines pertaining to principles of business prosecutions on the same day it lost the Stein case and Siemens for entering into a FCPA agreement prior to a change in administration

The Collar for the Best Parent - retired last year and renamed the Bill Olis Best Parent Award - unawarded this year since no one comes even close to Bill Olis

The Collar for Needing to Be Told "No" Twice - to the prosecutors who appealed Judge Lewis Kaplan's decision in the Stein case


December 30, 2008 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holiday

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday.


December 24, 2008 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Welcome - Research Associate to the White Collar Crime Blog

Welcome Whitney Curtis, Reference/Instructional Services Librarian of Stetson University College of Law Library, who is the new research associate for the white collar crime blog.


November 13, 2008 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Back to School

The blog has been fairly quiet this summer, but today is the opening day of school - so it's back to more detailed blogging and new blog developments.  I'd like to thank those of you who stayed with the blog this summer, and to the newcomers - thanks for clicking this way.

Law profs - if you have an interest in doing an occasional guest blog - let me know.


August 24, 2008 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

White Collar Crime Prof Blog Ranked 16th

Just a thanks to everyone who has been clicking this way.  In the recent rankings of Paul Caron over at Tax Prof Blog, the white collar crime prof blog came in as 16th in the "Top 35 blogs edited by law professors with publicly available SiteMeters for the most recent 12-month period (July 2007 - June 2008)." (see here)


July 22, 2008 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Future of White Collar Investigative Reporting

The diminishing print media is pretty frightening. It seems like every day one opens the newspaper to find another paper laying off people, consolidating, offering buyouts, and basically cutting back.  The dismal economy coupled with decreased advertising in print has serious consequences to the dissemination of news.  Most importantly in hurting print media is the World Wide Web and the availability of news online.

Blogs like this white collar crime blog do not replace the press.  They offer transparency on some issues, and hopefully also offer explanation of the issues covered by the press. This blog also aims at providing links to the vast sources available on the distinct topic of white collar crime.  In a world of information overload, having a place to easily access materials in a particular area can hopefully be time-saving. And to the many who peruse this blog - I thank you for clicking this way as it is nice to know that the many hours of work that this takes is useful to some.

But this blog does not do something very important for people, and it is something that print media has provided - this is investigative reporting. Many a white collar case arose as a result of someone in the media culling through government documents and speaking with relevant people to find corruption, discrepancies, and criminal conduct. Likewise, it is print media that investigates and exposes government improprieties.  The small Watergates that occur throughout the world are brought to light by the hard work of investigative journalists.

With newspapers reducing personnel and the web being an insufficient substitute - at least at present - for advancing this form of reporting, it raises concerns about an important check on government.  It isn't likely that the government will be bailing out this industry, and certainly conflicts arise in even considering this option.  But one has to wonder if white collar crime prosecutions, and other prosecutions of this nature will decrease as the press will no longer be there to expose criminality that is often difficult to prove.  And more importantly, will there be an appropriate check on government conduct when print media becomes a mere skeleton.

(esp) (w/ disclosure that my partner is in print media)   

July 2, 2008 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Is Blogging Hazardous to Your Health?

Checkout this NYTimes story here. I think there is some truth to this piece, especially when it's not your full-time job.  The law prof who takes on  blogging finds him or herself glued to the computer more hours than prior to taking up blogging.  Weight gain -  yes! Loss of Sleep - yes!  But in the end,  I would have to say that blogging results in better teaching, as the material learned while blogging significantly enhances the classroom experience.

I am hitting Paul Caron at TaxProf, Dan Solove at Concurring Opinion, Dan Filler at Faculty Lounge, Ann Bartow at Feminist Law Professors, Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit, Paul Butler at BlackProf, and Doug Berman at Sentencing Law & Policy.  What do you think? 


Professor Doug Berman - Sentencing Law & Policy - "I agree on all fronts.  I probably work more, but I also know I know more and do more.  And if I am putting myself closer to an early grave, at least I will leave a lot behind to cite..."

Joe Hodnicki - X.O Law Professors Blog  "Hazardous? Yes. Two herniated discs in my neck from toiling over a keyboard (bad posture) last year! Joe"

Professor Ann Bartow - Feminist Law Professors Blog - "I definitely spend too much time at the computer, which can't be good. Of far more concern to me, though, are the agressively nasty e-mails and (attempted) comments I receive as a result of the blog. They add a lot of stress." 

Professor Dan Fuller - Faculty Lounge - "Since law teaching is already a full-time job when you're not blogging, it's inevitable that blogging will eat into the rest of your life.  But for me, I've come to accept that it is a work-related hobby, and a great way to indulge in one of my personal love/hate passions: writing.  I agree with Ann - nasty responses are no fun.  But it only adds an incentive to write precisely, so that the nasty folk are at least responding to something I actually intended to say!"

April 6, 2008 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Link Problem on the Blog

Just wanted to notify everyone that I have been made aware that one link on the blog was hijacked.  The matter is being corrected and the blog is being examined to avoid this problem in the future.  I appreciate being notified of any problems you find.  Thanks. 


March 26, 2008 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thank You - Peter

It is with sadness, but understanding, that I see my co-blogger Peter Henning leaving the white collar crime prof blog.  And although I considered folding up this shop,  I have made the decision to move forward with some occasional guest bloggers and your assistance.

I will be adding a few new items to the blog in the next couple of weeks, such as a spotlight on a lawyer (USA, AUSA or defense attorney) or professor who teaches in the white collar area. If you have someone you would like me to consider here, send it my way -   I also appreciate when you send pleadings from your cases, court decisions, and other happenings that you hear about. Receiving these items will make my job significantly easier - so please send all the news you have to offer.  Your readership is appreciated, and I hope you will continue to check out this blog.

With many many thanks to Peter. 


March 13, 2008 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Nixon_farewell Just like President Nixon leaving the White House with arms raised high and head unbowed, so too am I leaving the White Collar Crime Prof Blog -- how's that for a final image.  I guess I could have used Eliot Spitzer as my model for a quick exit. 

While I didn't last quite as long on the blog as "Tricky" Dick, a bit less than three-and-a-half years, but I was around longer than Spitzer's sixteen months as Governor of New York.  And I'm not leaving as an unindicted coconspirator either, at least not as far as I know.  But seriously, folks . . .  it has been a great deal of fun to write on this blog, and I've made a number of new friends and contacts over the last three years.  More importantly, I've learned quite a lot about the law, some of it from looking up cases, statutes, and court documents to figure out what was going on to compose a post, and more than a few times from the helpful comments of readers correcting my many mistakes.  Over the course of a couple thousand posts -- and way too many words in most of them -- I hope I've become a better writer and a bit more observant.  One of the joys of doing the blog is following cases on a regular basis, which gives me a much better understanding of how they unfold.

I owe a significant debt of gratitude to Ellen Podgor, my co-editor of this blog and co-author on more than a few projects.  We got into this endeavor almost on a whim, talking about it for a few minutes during one of our many telephone conversations and basically diving into the blog without knowing where it would go.  At one point we said we'd consider it a major achievement to have 500 viewers in a day -- we now average over 1,000 on weekdays, and your reading what we write is much appreciated.  Ellen and I disagreed about .1% of the time about items in the blog, and even then it was a principled difference, and she has been terrific to work with.  She plans to continue the blog, so it remains in good hands.

For those worried that I may be out roaming the streets looking to create mischief without the blog, fear not -- I have more than enough to keep me busy.  For those who forwarded items from various cases, please stay in touch because I plan to continue to follow developments in the field.  White collar crime is now much more than just a niche, what with all those politicians with their assignations and CEOs looking to inflate revenue and earnings, so I suspect it will remain that way. 

Thanks again, and as Steely Dan once sang, "Sue me if I play too long," but don't try it as a civil RICO claim.  Aloha!

-- Peter Henning

March 13, 2008 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Blog Survey

Please provide feedback and assist in improving this blog by taking this quick survey.  It should take less than 2 minutes and your answers will be very much appreciated.  Just click this link here.  Thanks.


February 25, 2008 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

White Collar Crime Blog Ranking

Paul Caron, over at TaxProf Blog, ranks the law professors blogs (see here) with the White Collar Crime Prof Blog coming in at # 15 on traffic ranking.  He also ranks page views.  So thanks to all who are reading this blog.

Law Prof Blog Traffic Ranking -- Visitors (Feb. 2007 - Jan. 2008)

1.   InstaPundit 70,748,231
2.   Hugh Hewitt 13,392,343
3.   Volokh Conspiracy 8,647,368
4.   Althouse 4,429,672
5.   Leiter Reports: Philosophy Blog 1,629,699
6.   TaxProf Blog 1,358,016
7.   Balkinization 1,294,363
8.   Concurring Opinions 1,125,512
9.   Sentencing Law & Policy 907,141
10. Professor 856,240
11. Jack Bog's Blog 776,272
12. Leiter's Law School Reports 726,005
13. PrawfsBlawg 639,468
14. 451,091
15. White Collar Crime Prof Blog 383,443
16. Conglomerate 378,787
17. Opinio Juris 323,519
18. Workplace Prof Blog 298,525
19. Is That Legal? 242,119
20. Chicago Faculty Blog 235,028
21. CrimProf Blog 211,119
22. Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog 202,324
23. Ideoblog 186,511
24. ImmigrationProf Blog 181,055
25. ContractsProf Blog 167,861
26. Empirical Legal Studies 148,157
27. Election Law Blog 127,488
28. Religion Clause 122,352
29. Family Law Prof Blog 108,608
30. MoneyLaw 100,298


February 19, 2008 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year - Meet the Bloggers

We wish everyone a happy, healthy, and peaceful new year. 

We will be at the CALI Bloggers Booth at the AALS Conference on Thursday, January 3rd at 3 P.M.  Stop by and say hello.  (ph & esp)

December 31, 2007 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

What's Coming in 2008

The New Year will deliver a variety of interesting cases and issues in the white collar crime field, and here are a few developments (and predictions) that may be of interest in 2008 (in no particular order):

  • Supreme Court decisions on whether to grant certiorari in the appeals of John and Timothy Rigas (Adelphia Communications) on fraud charges and former Illinois Governor Ryan on RICO/corruption charges.
  • Appellate court rulings on the convictions of former CEOs Jeffrey Skilling (Enron) and Joseph Nacchio (Qwest).  Skilling is likely to have at least some of the counts of conviction reversed due to problems with the honest services fraud theory, while Nacchio could well be looking at a new trial on a variety of grounds.
  • The CEO trials just keep on coming, with former Reagan Administration budget whiz David Stockman facing charges related to his tenure at auto parts manufacturer Collins & Aikman and Phillip Bennett charged for his role in the collapse of futures broker Refco, perhaps the quickest demise of a public company -- only two months after the IPO.
  • More defense procurement cases -- oops, we said that last year.  This time around, the focus will be not only on contractors, especially Blackwater Worldwide, but also government officials charged with investigating corruption, such as former State Department IG Cookie Krongard.
  • Foreign Corrupt Practices Act cases will continue to be the hot trend, with Siemens probably setting the record for largest fine assessed in an FCPA case -- perhaps as much as $500 million -- if it is able to settle wide-ranging criminal and civil probes of overseas payments currently estimated at $2 billion.
  • Whether the Supreme Court's recent decisions in Gall and Kimbrough bring about changes in white collar sentencing, the most likely source of defendants who can make the case for individualized sentences and take advantage of the newly-restored discretion given to federal district court judges.
  • The Barry Bonds perjury/obstruction prosecution will garner significant headlines whenever the home run king appears in court, and his trial will be the hottest ticket since the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby case, with a different set of political overtones.  It could even be a welcome distraction from the Presidential campaign if it occurs in the fall.
  • The Second Circuit will decide whether to uphold U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan's ruling dismissing charges against thirteen former KPMG partners and employees due to interference with the payment of their attorney's fees by prosecutors.  If the appellate court reinstates the indictment, then look for a prediction on when the trial will start in "What's Coming in 2009," unless it's headed to the Supreme Court, of course.
  • The District of Columbia's decision on the search of Representative William Jefferson's office has caused the Department of Justice much consternation, so don't be surprised to see the Supreme Court grant the government's certiorari petition filed on December 19 (available here).
  • The issue of parallel civil and criminal investigations is the subject of an important case before the Ninth Circuit in United States v. Stringer, argued on September 26, 2007.  The opinion should be announced soon, and this is another case that may be headed to the Supreme Court.
  • Mortgage fraud moves front and center as the hot focus of the Department of Justice.  A sure sign that there is pressure to bring cases will be the formation of a Mortgage Fraud Task Force -- when in doubt, form a committee.
  • As options backdating cases wind down, look for the SEC to begin pursuing disclosure investigations involving banks, brokerage firms, and other financial institutions regarding their exposure to subprime mortgages and the valuation of securities, such as CDOs. tied to that collapsing market.  Not that any of it will ease the pain of collapsing house prices.
  • Look for Kobi Alexander to be in Namibia fighting extradition back to Brooklyn to face securities fraud and obstruction of justice charges a year from now.  Indeed, it's an open question whether there will even be a hearing related to the extradition as his attorneys have skillfully thrown up roadblocks to delay even the initial stages of the extradition process.  The 2012 version of this list may well be saying the same thing.
  • Look for more election fraud cases with the political season heating up, and the Attorney General might find this to be a good place to make an impression as a non-partisan leader of the Department of Justice.   

Have a safe and happy New Year!

(esp & ph)

December 30, 2007 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 28, 2007

2007 White Collar Crime Awards

In the finest end-of-the-year tradition of various media outlets, we again honor individuals and organizations for their work this year in the white collar crime arena by bestowing "The Collar" on those who deserve our praise, scorn, acknowledgment, blessing, curse, or whatever else you can think of that would be appropriate. Comments are open if any readers would like to suggest additional categories or winners (or losers?), remembering to keep any offerings reasonably mature and somewhat well-meaning, at least to the extent ours meet those criteria (and do not open us up to a libel suit).

With the appropriate fanfare, and without further ado, we present The Collars for 2007:

The Collar for Best Exposure of the Deficiencies in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines -- To President George Bush for finding I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's guidelines sentence to be excessive.

The Collar for Best Parent -- For the third year in a row, to Bill Olis for all his work on behalf of his son Jamie.  Last year we said one more year and we retire the award in Bill's name, and so this award now is retired and permanently bears the name of The Bill Olis Best Parent Award.

The Collar for Nice Work If You Can Get It -- to former AG John Ashcroft, appointed by a former subordinate as a monitor under a deferred prosecution agreement that will require the monitored company to pay him between $29,000,000 and $52,000,000.

The Collar for Biggest Bang From a Deferred  Prosecution Agreement-- to U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie (the subordinate mentioned in the preceding Collar) for also getting three former colleagues appointed as monitors in the same case, and this comes after his law school alma mater happened to receive a chaired professorship in 2005 pursuant to a deferred prosecution agreement (surprise!!).  Three guesses who may run for Governor of New Jersey in 2009?

The Collar for the Best Skating Not on an Ice Rink -- to Andy Fastow and Jack Abramoff (no explanations needed).

The Collar for Worst Award  -- To the ABA Journal, which originally selected -- with no apparent irony -- the gone-but-surely-not-forgotten AG Alberto Gonzales as its "Lawyer of the Year," initially defending the selection by claiming that he made the most news, even if almost all of it was bad. 

The Collar for Hottest 30-Year Old . . . Statute -- To the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which has come into its own as a "mature" criminal statute, even being noticed by the New York Times.  And get your minds out of the gutter, this is a family-friendly blog!

The Collar for Best Able to Move Past a Conviction -- hands down this one goes to Martha Stewart, who has moved on with her life with hardly a misplaced dinner fork.

The Collar for Least Qualified to Hire an Assistant U.S. Attorney -- To Monica Goodling, former White House Liaison to AG Alberto Gonzales (briefly a "Lawyer of the Year" -- see above), who admitted she allowed political considerations to enter into the hiring of career AUSAs. 

The Collar for What Started With a Bang Sure Ended With a Whimper -- To former investment banking star Frank Quattrone, who went through two trials (first jury hung), a conviction later overturned by the Second Circuit, and then received the only deferred prosecution agreement given to an individual in a white collar crime case to this point, with the condition being that he remain a good boy for twelve months.  He did, and is now free from his prior entanglements.

The Collar for the Law Firm With the Most Named Partners Charged With a Crime -- To what was known as Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman, whose three living partners (Milberg died long before the firm's troubles arose) were all charged in federal indictments, with Bershad and Schulman pleading guilty.  As a cherry on top, the firm's predecessor included another name partner who entered a guilty plea, William Lerach.

The Collar for Wildest Bribery Case in Mississippi -- To Dickie Scruggs, made famous in the movie "The Insider" about the tobacco litigation that made him rich, who now faces charges of trying to bribe a state court judge in Mississippi, along with his son and another attorney at the firm.  This one has it all: money, local politics, undercover tapes, wiretaps.  Who's writing the screenplay for this one?

The Collar for the Biggest Perjury Case Since, Well, the Last Biggest One -- Now that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby dodged prison and dropped his appeal, it's on to the next "biggest" perjury case: the prosecution of one Barry Lamar Bonds for lying to a grand jury investigating the steroids factory Balco.

The Collar for the Next Next Biggest Perjury Case Since . . . -- To Roger Clemens, who has loudly proclaimed his innocence regarding steroid use after being named in the Mitchell Report on the invasion of performance enhancing drugs in baseball, will be pressured to testify under oath before Congress when it holds hearings on the Report.  With a scheduled interview on Sixty Minutes, perhaps Congress will make lying to Mike Wallace a federal offense, because Clemens would be a fool to walk into a perjury trap on Capitol Hill.

The Collar for Hardest "What Do These Two Have In Common" Trivia Question -- To Michael Dwayne Short, formerly of Hyattsville, Maryland, who will be forever linked with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.  Care to guess why? [Answer will be posted in the Comments on January 1 in case you care.]

The Collar for the White Collar Defendant Most Needing Relief -- To Chalana McFarland, a first-time offender who received 30 years for a mortgage fraud.

The Collar for the State With the Most High-Profile Federal Corruption Investigations -- A tie this year between Louisiana and Alabama, with Alaska starting early to secure next year's award.

The Collar for Blogs That Should Be Nominated for Some Award -- To The D & O Diary (written by Kevin LaCroix) and The FCPA Blog (written by Dick Cassin), both outstanding for their thorough, balanced posts that are uniformly informative -- they deserve recognition for the service they provide to readers but probably won't in various popularity contests.

(esp & ph)

December 28, 2007 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Wishing Everyone A Happy Holiday

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy, and peaceful holiday.

(ph) & (esp)

December 24, 2007 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Every Man Has His Price

Professor Stuart Green is joining us this week as a guest blogger.  He is Louis B. Porterie Professor of Law at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University, where he has taught since 1995.  His current project is a monograph entitled Property, Crime, and Morals: Theft Law in the Information Age, which will be published by Harvard University Press.  Stuart has written extensively on white collar crime issues, and his post is about a subject near and dear to our hearts here are the White Collar Crime Prof Blog: corruption.  Welcome, Stuart, and thanks for joining us.


My thanks to Peter Henning and Ellen Podgor for inviting me to serve as a guest blogger this week at White Collar Crime Prof Blog. I am a professor of law at Louisiana State University and author of Lying, Cheating, and Stealing: A Moral Theory of White Collar Crime (OUP, 2006), now available in paperback.

I plan to spend at least some of the week talking about bribery. The last several weeks have brought a steady stream of such cases in the news: That of Dickie Scruggs, the big time Mississippi torts lawyer who has been indicted on charges that he offered $50,000 to sway a local judge in a relatively small fee dispute, has already received some excellent discussion on this site. Reports out of Iraq indicate that widespread theft and bribery are hindering the country’s ability to achieve political and social stability. And Pete Kott, former Speaker of the Alaska House, was sentenced to six years in a federal prison for accepting $9,000 in bribes from the founder of an oil field services company, in a case that may well end up implicating Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.

Bribery is an elusive crime. Particularly in the United States, where the political process is so thoroughly permeated by private contributions and log-rolling, it can be hard to distinguish between what’s truly corrupt and what’s not. The British, though less encumbered with the problem of political contributions, have nevertheless struggled to make sense of bribery, and the Law Commission of England and Wales has just issued a major new consultation paper calling for reform in this area. (Full disclosure: I served as a consultant on the report, writing an Appendix on the law of bribery in the U.S.) The study recommends a complete overhaul of the law of bribery.

Among its most striking recommendation is that bribery in the private sector be treated on the same terms as bribery in the public sector. The study offers both moral and instrumental reasons for abrogating the traditional distinction. It views the moral wrong of bribery as involving the "breach of a legal or equitable duty that involves a betrayal of a relation of trust or a breach of a duty to act impartially or in the best interests of another." It says that "[w]here a person breaches such a duty in return for the conferral or promise of an advantage from another, both should be guilty of bribery irrespective of whether the recipient is a public official." ¶1.16. As for practical reasons, according to the report, "the main objection to having separate offences is that it is very difficult to define with sufficient clarity the distinction between public sector and private sector functions. Increasingly, what were formerly public sector functions are sub-contracted out to the private companies while public bodies now frequently form joint ventures with private companies." ¶1.14.

Both propositions seem to me problematic. First, it could be argued that government officials who accept bribes breach a duty to the public good that is more significant than the duty breached by employees of a private firm. Second, while it is true that the lines between public and private functions has become increasingly blurred in recent years, it may make more sense simply to err on the side of treating some quasi-private functions as public (as in the case of U.S. federal program bribery) without going so far as to treat all private functions as public. Those, at least are a couple of my initial reactions to the report. I’ll have more to say about it tomorrow.

Stuart Green

December 10, 2007 in About This Blog, Corruption | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Bad Movies - Good Movies

Paul Caron, King of the LawProf Blogsphere tagged me here.  It seems that a dean and some professors are playing tag and if tagged you have to name your "bad movie". (See Dean Jim Chen here, Professor Nancy Rapoport here, Professor Ann Bartow here) It's all part of the "truly bad movie meme" Well that's all well and good, but I do need to add some comments here before I drop the name.

  • First I have to point out that my initial reaction was - gee this looks like it might be the start of a pyramid scheme - did they come to the correct blog on this one, a white collar crime blog?  But, I think that can be ruled out.  The money isn't there.
  • My second thought - Why always the bad - I hate negativity - couldn't they do the "good" movies.  That would be easy as Being There would be my choice. It's a true classic.
  • My final thought (with the help of dinner colleagues from Stetson - Janice McClendon and Candace Zierdt)  - my choice -  Paper Chase.

The Paper Chase is "bad" because it has stigmatized us as a profession. We have the viewing public seeing the law prof as someone without the "caring" we so need in our profession.  To some extent this movie exposed  the Kingsfield professor, but to another extent it reinforced a Socratic methodology that is cold and unfeeling. For that it rates my choice as the "bad movie."

My tag goes to Paul Butler at Blackprof.

December 2, 2007 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)