Upcoming Federal Sentencing Reform Offers Little Benefit for White Collar Defendants

October 22, 2015  |  The Insider: White Collar Defense and Securities Enforcement

Likely to sate the public’s appetite to punish perpetrators of financial crimes, in recent years Congress and the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) have created a scheme where individuals convicted of white collar crimes serve long sentences and, thereafter, are saddled with a lifetime of disabilities that often are out of proportion to the venality of their conduct or the legitimate goals of our criminal justice system. For years, the length of sentences in white collar cases largely has been determined by the United States Sentencing Guidelines almost-singular focus on “loss” as the key factor in economic crimes, which obscures the myriad other factors that affect a defendant’s true culpability in an individual case and often results in unduly punitive results. In some cases, relatively low-level and ministerial employees faced life sentences in prison because the guidelines did not properly account for their role in the scheme. In others, defendants faced decades-long sentences for activity that was more “farcical than dangerous” simply because the “intended loss” of their “ridiculous” scheme numbered in the billions of dollars. [...]

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