Judges Have Sufficient Options Available to Punish White Collar Defendants


On May 4, 2010, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the following in a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on financial crime:

Despite the enormous losses in many securities fraud cases, a preliminary analysis by the United States Sentencing Commission suggests that securities fraud offenders may often receive shorter sentences than other white collar offenders who cause similar harm. Our amendment will direct the Sentencing Commission to review and amend the sentencing guidelines for these types of fraud, taking into account the importance of sending people to jail as a deterrent and the potential and actual harm to the public from these offenses. (emphasis added).

Sen. Leahy’s bold statement, although it certainly sounds righteously indignant and focused on popular anger at Wall Street crooks, does not appear to have a sound factual basis. Except for a mysterious citation to a preliminary analysis by the Sentencing Commission, Sen. Leahy does not explain how it is that “securities fraud offenders may often receive shorter sentences than other white collar offenders who cause similar harm.” A careful look at the facts shows that securities fraud offenders typically receive extremely lengthy sentences in federal court.

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