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Los Angeles Times
September 25, 2015

VW is a great test of whether DOJ really will put white-collar crooks in jail
By Michael Hiltzik

As has been pointed out by William K. Black, who as a thrift regulator in the 1980s put plenty of S&L executives in prison, the Yates memo is an admission that DOJ's "experiment in refusing to prosecute the senior bankers that led the fraud epidemics that caused our economic crisis failed." Not a single high-level banker has been convicted. Allowing them to get away with "absolute impunity," Black says, "will go down as the Justice Department's greatest strategic failure against elite white-collar crime." The failure to prosecute bankers has been part of a much broader winking at white-collar offenses of all sorts. According to an analysis by David Cay Johnston of data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University (see accompanying graphic), federal white-collar prosecutions have fallen by about 37% over the last two decades, to fewer than 6,900 from nearly 11,000 in 1995, under Bill Clinton. During much of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, the DOJ not only avoided criminal prosecutions of individuals, but was shy about criminal prosecutions of corporations themselves. Its preferred strategy was to extract steep financial penalties and deferred-prosecution agreements in which corporations pledged to institute internal compliance programs and not to repeat their offenses.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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