Are We Losing That White-Collar Distinction?


A recent speech by a U.S. Attorney sent white-collar defense attorneys a strong message: The government often doesn’t see much difference between your white-collar client and a drug lord – and you’d better prepare your defense accordingly.

After all, most people think they intuitively understand the difference between white-collar crime and its counterpart, violent or street crime.

But in a recent and little-noticed speech, Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the distinction between the two seems to be “growing more blurry.”

Bharara, who heads an office that has historically prosecuted a large number of securities fraud, insider trading, and international criminal cases, was speaking on white-collar crime trends on Oct. 20, 2010, at the New York City Bar Association.

Bharara noted, for example, that his office had recently charged dozens of people with alleged organized crime connections and pinned racketeering offenses on them – but that the central crime charged involved Medicare fraud, a classic white-collar crime.

Recently, the same U.S. Attorney’s office arrested a number of people in a so-called “pump and dump” scheme, which is a typical form of securities fraud. But these people were also involved in a suspected massive drug conspiracy at the same time.

“In a way, even bank robbery is morphing into a white-collar crime,” Bharara said. “The modern, high-tech bank heist does not require a gun, a mask, a note, or a getaway car. It requires only the Internet and ingenuity.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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