In a recent appearance before Congress, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates declared that the US Department of Justice is going to ratchet up its prosecution of individuals employed in corporations as part of a larger push against ‘white collar crime.’ There is no doubt that such prosecutions will be very popular to a large section of voters, given that presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin O’Malley, along with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren pretty much have declared that nearly all American businesses are part of a massive criminal conspiracy that must be brought down by federal authorities.
Within the next year, we should expect to see mid-level business and finance executives doing ‘perp walks’ in front of the news media, as federal prosecutors will charge them with various ‘economic crimes’ in hopes that they will implicate their superiors. All of us by now know the drill and in a time of anemic economic growth complete with business failures, it won’t be hard to find scapegoats.
Everyone Is ‘Guilty’ When famed civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate published his now-famous book, Three Felonies a Day, it caused quite a stir. Going through a number of very disturbing cases, Silverglate made clear that if federal prosecutors want to target an individual, it is very easy to fashion criminal charges against them.
To prove his point, he noted how the federal prosecutors in New York when Rudy Giuliani was US Attorney for the Southern District of New York regularly played a game in which they would see if various celebrities and others, including Mother Theresa, had broken federal criminal law. The result, unfortunately, was that for each person no matter how good his or her public character, a federal statue existed that would place them in prison.
This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on SEPTEMBER 30, 2015.