Monday, November 14, 2005

Is DOJ "Cooking the Books" in Its Reporting of White Collar Crime?

If someone were to tell you that white collar crime prosecutions are down, your response might be the same as mine -- which was -- NO WAY!  According to Trac Reports here in discussing white collar prosecutions it stated that DOJ:

"documented a decline of about ten percent from FY 2003 to FY 2004. Estimates for 2005 indicate that the decline is continuing."

The problem is not the Trac Reporting System, a wonderful resource of Syracuse University (blog author notes that she received a BS from this institution), but rather how DOJ is categorizing white collar crime.  It seems that white collar crime includes antitrust and fraud, but fails to include corruption as well as a host of other criminal activity that clearly is white collar in nature.

So what isn't considered white collar crime by the DOJ - see here - the list includes environmental offenses, bribery, federal corruption, procurement corruption,  state and local corruption, immigration violations, money laundering (how many white collar cases tack on money laundering :) ), OSHA violations, and copyright violations.  Oddly enough, every white collar crime casebook seems to include at least some of these categories. And if you go to a typical website of a United States Attorney, many of these items are considered white collar crime.  For example, the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California describes its efforts against white collar crime here as follows:

"The White Collar Crime Section is responsible for prosecuting a wide range of complex cases, including public corruption (such as bribery, kickback schemes, and theft of government funds) health care fraud, financial institutions fraud, bankruptcy fraud and mail and wire fraud.  Civil rights cases are also monitored, evaluated and prosecuted by the section.  Environmental cases are prosecuted under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and other federal environmental statutes.  The section also prosecutes cases involving the protection of wildlife and Food and Drug Administration cases concerning the safety of the nation's food supply." 

Maybe white collar prosecutions really are down, but it might be more palatable if the statistics were a bit clearer. So why would DOJ "cook the books" to show a decrease in white collar crime prosecutions?  I can think of no possible reason. Could this be a situation of the cook not knowing what is in the books?


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