White Collar Prosecutions Fall to Lowest in 20 Years
The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during April 2018 the government reported 494 new white collar crime prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, this number is down 14.4 percent over the previous month.
Examining trends over the first seven months of FY 2018, the government reported a total of 3,249 new white collar crime prosecutions. If this level of activity continues at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be 5,570 for this fiscal year - down from last year.
These recent trends continue a long term slide in the level of federal fraud prosecutions. Indeed, current levels represent the lowest number of white collar prosecutions in more than 20 years. Overall, the data show that prosecutions are down 31.3 percent from the level of 8,108 reported in 2008 and down 40.8 percent from the level of 9,412 reported in 1998. See Table 1.
The long term trend in white collar crime prosecutions for these matters going back to FY 1998 is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of white collar crime prosecutions recorded each fiscal year. Projected figures for the current fiscal year are shown. Each presidential administration is distinguished by the color of the bars.
Leading Investigative Agencies
The lead investigative agency for white collar crime prosecutions through April 2018 was the Federal Bureau of Investigation, accounting for 32.7 percent of prosecutions referred.
As shown in Figure 2, additional agencies with substantial numbers of white collar crime referrals were the Secret Service (10.8%), the Internal Revenue Service (10.1%), and the Postal Service (8.7%). Next was the Social Security Administration that accounted for 4.8 percent of these referrals. Other agencies that contributed to this total include Health and Human Services (4.6%), Customs and Border Protection (3.4%), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (2.6%), along with state and local authorities (2%).
Top Ranked Lead Charges
Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest projected decline in prosecutions compared to one year ago - down 43 percent - was "Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US " (Title 18 U.S.C Section 371 ). This was the same statute that had the largest projected decrease - 58% - when compared with five years ago.
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
During FY 2017 the Justice Department said the government obtained 18 white collar crime prosecutions for every one million people in the United States. If pace during the first seven months of FY 2018 continues at the same rate, white collar crime prosecutions for one million people in the United States this year will be 17.2. Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of white collar crime prosecutions in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.
Compared to 10 years ago, Northern District of Indiana (South Bend), Western District of New York (Buffalo), Middle District of Alabama (Montgomery), Northern District of West Virginia (Wheeling) and Arizona now ranked in the top 10 did not appear in the top ten.
And compared to 20 years ago, Southern District of Florida (Miami), Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis), Western District of New York (Buffalo), Southern District of Mississippi (Jackson), Middle District of Alabama (Montgomery), Arizona, Northern District of West Virginia (Wheeling) and Northern District of Indiana (South Bend) were not sufficiently active to then make the top 10.
The federal judicial district which showed the greatest projected growth in the rate of white collar crime prosecutions compared to one year ago - 77.0 percent - was Southern District of Mississippi (Jackson). Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest projected growth - 20.5 percent - was Northern District of Indiana (South Bend).
In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest projected drop in the rate of white collar crime prosecutions - down 37.7 percent - was Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).
TRAC offers free monthly reports on program categories such as white collar crime, immigration, drugs, weapons and terrorism and on selected government agencies such as the IRS, FBI, ATF and DHS. For the latest information on prosecutions and convictions, go to http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/bulletins/. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports for a specific agency, judicial district, program category, lead charge or judge via the TRAC Data Interpreter.