Does white-collar crime go unpunished?

August 4, 2022
Does white-collar crime go unpunished?

The prevailing perception across the country, including in Missouri, seems to be that white-collar crime tends to go unpunished, that people in positions of authority can commit acts of fraud, embezzle money, etc. without fear of discovery or repercussions. This belief tends to persist despite recent high-profile guilty pleas by people with ties to the executive branch of government, perceived as the exception rather than the rule.

The statistics tend to support the perception. According to Bloomberg, white-collar prosecutions are down 40% from 1998, hovering near a 20-year low point. This means that not only may people not be going to prison for alleged white-collar crimes, but they also may not go to court in the first place. There are a number of reasons why this might happen.

Lack of resources

Government agencies lack the necessary personnel to enforce the regulations and prosecute alleged white-collar criminals. As an example, despite the increased complexity in financial crimes and the sheer number of tax filers, the number of special agents working to investigate such matters for the Internal Revenue Service has remained at about 2,200 for 50 years.

Diffuse responsibility

It can be difficult to identify the person or group of people responsible for an alleged white-collar crime when responsibility rests with multiple executives in a corporation. Even if a prosecution takes place, it can be hard to acquire enough evidence to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

Shifting law enforcement priorities

The federal government has put more of an emphasis on battling terrorism, diverting resources that might otherwise go toward investigating white-collar crime allegations. This trend dates back to approximately 2001 in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11th.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.


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