White collar crime has hit a 20 year low under Trump yet hit an all-time high in the Obama years.  We only know of the crime if there is a conviction so obviously convictions are down.  Are less white collar crimes being investigated or are they just harder to prove?

The Trump White House appears to be laden with people that have committed white-collar crimes.  Many of the people who have been convicted seem to have operated under the radar for years.

The question that was discussed around the table one night is why do white-collar criminals get to serve out their time in fancier jails than other criminals?  Their sentences are lighter and although not violent, most of the crimes could be construed as worse.

There is a lot of data out there that bad people will commit crimes no matter what and making the laws tougher won’t change behavior.  I wonder if people who commit white-collar crimes knew that if they got caught they would end up in Rikers vs the country-club prison for a few years that we would see a decline in those type of crimes.

Are we not all equal in crime?  Shouldn’t jail be jail?

Comments (Archived):

  1. JLM

    .White collar crime statistics are covered by places like the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The statistics are accessible and easy to understand.I attach a graph from TRAC which shows the trendline for white collar crime. The conclusions you offer are not correct.White collar crime has a 3+ year cycle from investigation to trial (or, alternatively, plea agreement/settlement) to conviction. Take as an example, the Manafort prosecution which was based on crimes committed more than 10 years ago. Those were white collar crimes.The cases which are being tried today were initiated during the Obama administration. If you look at the chart, you can see that there was, in fact, a peak in 2010-2011, but those cases were initiated three years earlier in the Bush admin.If you look at the moving average, you can see that the decline in white collar crime prosecutions (this graph is prosecutions, not convictions) begins and continues throughout the Obama admin. If you look carefully at the graph during 2016-17, after Trump took over, the trend line is flat. [Trump had nothing to do with this as I note above. These prosecutions were initiated under Obama.]The current curve is just the same trend line. Trump has nothing to do with it. I know you never miss a chance to dump on Trump, but this one is a swing and a miss.There are several identifiable, organic reasons why this is true and it has to do with the nature of the white collar crimes.1. The largest category of white collar crimes was Fraud-Health Care. This category went on vacation for a while when Obamacare was passed because the methodology of such crime changed and in the changed condition, prosecutors didn’t know what to look for or prosecute. Medicare fraud was impacted by better oversight.2. The third highest type of white collar crime was Fraud-Identity Theft-Aggravated which is in a general decline because people are getting smarter and more attentive. This is like the rate of road deaths declining over time when the Feds lowered Interstate Highway speed limits.3. The Feds have been diverting white collar crimes to Magistrate Courts which handle less serious crimes and which are then settling these cases. A case which is settled does not show up in the “prosecutions” numbers. This is a trend which has accelerated because of the workload of the US Attorneys.A huge example of this is Fraud-Securities, Fraud-Misuse of visa, permits, other docs. Immigration fraud has, effectively, dropped out of the Federal Courts. This is an example of the impact of programs such as DACA during the Obama admin. During Obama’s second term, he just stopped prosecuting anything related to immigration including coyote trafficking.These white collar crimes are prosecuted by US Attorneys and US Attorneys will tell you that their work load is dramatically increasing in the area of terrorism, intellectual property theft, counterintelligence, drug distribution, and other serious felonies. The Internet has become a new place for the US Attorneys to pursue crime. This didn’t exist a few years ago. They simply don’t have the band width or the inclination to pursue white collar crimes.Many drug related crimes which were classified as white collar crimes have been de-criminalized. There will be no white collar crimes related to marijuana in California, Colorado or any place where marijuana is now legal. In the past, this category accounted for up to 10% of all cases.Bottom line: white collar crime prosecutions have been declining since 2010-2011. Has nothing to do with Trump. Will continue to decline as digital crimes force a changed focus and as US Attorneys are focused on more serious crimes.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca… https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. JLM

      .Small point, TRAC is able to follow white collar crime at the prosecution initiation instant in time. It does not require a conviction.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Gotham Gal

      Very interesting.

    2. jason wright

      why do we have/ need the political singularity, of a president, a prime minister, a king, a queen, a god, and then assign failure to them?

  2. LE

    The question that was discussed around the table one night is why do white-collar criminals get to serve out their time in fancier jails than other criminals? Their sentences are lighter and although not violent, most of the crimes could be construed as worse.Well here is one possible reason. White collar criminals generally (and in theory) have better resources to fight the government (more money, access to higher quality lawyers, perhaps smarter and better educated). As such if the punishment involved spending more time in a normal prison with hardened criminals, they would be less likely to plea and the government would not have as easy a time getting a conviction. They would fight the government much harder. So they do time. But the government (in order to secure a conviction) is able to give them a punishment that seems doable and not a danger to them. Also note that the above applies to their ability to flee the country prior to even going to trial. Someone with money and resources that is a strong possibility. Someone who is a simple thief could also but has nowhere near the ability to setup a life somewhere else. Besides prison to them is something they are not as scared of to begin with. It’s a risk of doing business.I mean seriously. If you were convicted of a crime and you thought it was possible to end up in a ‘real’ prison with hardened criminals would you stick around or get out? What you are suggesting is that the threat would perhaps prevent the crime. While that is possible I really don’t think that would end up being the case. I think net it would end up resulting in nominally less white collar crime (I think this is born out by research actually) and in the end less criminals in jail.

  3. Heather Weston

    I have heard/read a variety of discussions about the decline in prosecutions of white collar crime being tied to “win/loss” records for prosecutors. There is a growing risk aversion about prosecuting tough cases because everyone gets measured on their record and it affects career advancement. So, prosecutors look for easy wins and avoid complicated white collar cases. It shouldn’t be that way..part of our path of least resistance culture.

    1. Gotham Gal

      It certainly should not be that way