Americans over the past five or six decades have been lulled into believing white collar crime—crimes committed by the affluent or large companies (fraud, embezzlement, defective products, etc.)—is more socially acceptable than “blue collar” crime—crimes more often tied to street crime (robberies, burglaries, petty thefts, etc.).
Costs of Corporate Crime High
“Blue collar” crime costs American taxpayers roughly $14 billion each year while white collar crime costs American taxpayers between $250 and $300 bill each year, and you can tack on an additional $272 billion dollars American taxpayers pay out each year for fraud across the nation’s health care system.
Over the past decade, auto manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, energy producing industries, big banks, Wall Street hedge funds, and a host of other corporate entities have inflicted horrific crimes on the American public—and the overwhelming majority of these corporate entities have escaped any criminal liability.
In effect, the U.S. Justice Department has given these corporate entities a free license to travel down the criminal highway at any rate of speed they choose.
Prison System Bulging with Individual Offenders
Big money not only controls this nation’s political system but its criminal justice system as well, so much so that it has transformed the nation’s prison system into a lawless and corrupt industrial complex free to commit crimes against the bulging prisoner population with impunity.
We don’t understand the tolerance, even acceptance, Americans have for the crime committed by the wealthy and super rich against the general community. All we know is that it exists.
Drop in Corporate Criminal Charges Despite Tough Talk
This past October, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) announced that U.S. Justice Department data revealed a 29 percent drop in the criminal prosecution of corporations in this country between FY 2004 and 2014. This despite the fact that Justice Department officials through that decade repeatedly told the American public how tough they were in making sure that corporations “toe the line” and obey the law. Just last Mach, FBI Director James B. Comey told a Senate Appropriations Committee that “corporate fraud” is one of the eight serious “threats and challenges” facing the American public.
During the ten-year decade between 2004-2014, TRAC said 1.6 million defendants were criminally prosecuted for criminal wrongdoing with only 0.2 percent of them being companies—or one in 500—while the remaining 99.8 percent were individuals, more often than not, scapegoated by the corporate CEOs to take the fall for the corporation’s crimes.
In 2008, the Justice Department announced new “Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations” which said that “ultimately, the appropriateness of a criminal charge against a large corporation must be evaluated in a pragmatic way that produces a fair outcome.”
Individual Defendants Not So Lucky
The Justice Department, it should be noted, does not utilize the same pragmatism in deciding the “appropriateness” of prosecuting a bank robber or a petty crack cocaine dealer.
TRAC issued a more recent report (01-20-16) that was even more revealing. The report showed that the prosecution of corporate crime varies widely by location, program and agency; and that of 10,670 corporate criminal referrals from federal investigative agencies to U.S. Attorneys between FY 2010 and FY 2014, only 1,309 were prosecuted. That’s only 262 per year, or just 12.3 percent of corporate crimes referred to prosecutors for prosecution.
Compare this to the nearly one million criminal referrals aimed at individuals, of which 82.1 percent resulted in criminal charges being filed against them in federal court.
In a nutshell, roughly 8 out of ten the individuals federal investigators believed had committed a crime were actually prosecuted while roughly 1 out of eight companies believed to have committed a crime were prosecuted.
Politics of Decision to Charge
We lived in a dangerous time when 80 of the world’s richest people enjoy more combined wealth than half of the world’s population. Seven out the top ten of them are Americans—six men and one woman. The total worth of these American’s is approximately $400 billion – and they all own companies (or have owned companies) that have engaged in criminal conduct or flagrant unethical business practices.
Besides having banks “too big to fail,” this country has corporations too big to prosecute.
Too Many Criminal Offenders Sentenced to Prison
The United States leads the world in imprisoning people. American prisons house 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population, even though we only represent 5 percent of the world’s population.
The American prison population, to say the least, is under-represented by corporate criminals.