|(19 Jan 2023)
The latest available case-by-case records from the Department of Justice (DOJ) show that the prosecution of white-collar offenders in FY 2022 reached a new all-time low since tracking began during the Reagan administration. During the last fiscal year which ended last September, only 4,180 white-collar defendants were prosecuted. White-collar prosecutions last year were lower than in any year during the Trump administration. FY 2022 figures are even lower than during FY 2020 when, due to the pandemic and federal partial shutdowns, federal criminal enforcement activities of all kinds were sharply curtailed.
In general, prosecutions of white-collar offenders have been steadily declining. The number of prosecutions over the last two decades peaked in FY 2011 during the Obama administration. In that year, white-collar prosecutions had climbed to 10,162. This is nearly two and a half times current levels. Since then, federal prosecutions of white-collar offenders have steadily dropped.
The decision to criminally charge a business in contrast to an individual for engaging in white-collar criminal activity is exceedingly rare: just 1 percent of white-collar prosecutions involve business entities. This low rate has persisted whether the presidency was held by a Republican or by a Democrat. During FY 2022 out of the 4,180 prosecutions for white-collar offenses, only 31 of these defendants were businesses or corporate entities, a similar all-time low.
The majority of criminal referrals for white-collar crimes are closed by federal prosecutors without filing a prosecution. White-collar prosecution rates are generally lower than for many other types of federal crimes. Considering all crimes, federal attorneys last year prosecuted seven out of every ten (70 percent) criminal referrals they received. The odds of prosecution for white-collar offenses in comparison was 38 percent. This drops to just 5 percent for prosecution of a business engaging in white-collar crimes.
White-collar investigations often take years before they result in filing a criminal case. Thus, prosecutions last year were significantly shaped by what investigations were ongoing before President Biden assumed office. No empirical information is available measuring how long the investigative process took before these criminal referrals were made. Once they were received by federal prosecutors, the average days between receipt of these criminal referrals and the actual filing of the prosecution for white-collar crimes was 452 days. This is 3.6 times greater than the average time spent for all federal prosecutions last year.
When a business entity was prosecuted for a white-collar offense, in FY 2022 the average days between receipt and filing was twice as long at 1,025 days. Thus, these referrals involving business entities generally were the result of investigations completed during the Trump administration since the referral was received on average before President Biden assumed office.
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