Law Office of Philip R. Nathe
A recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune decries the lack of prosecutions of high-profile corporate fraud. It points to various explanations of why there appears to be more white collar and corporate fraud in the news and less prosecution.
The editorial notes that court decisions have often gone against government prosecutors. However, the simplest answer is that prosecuting white collar fraud is extremely difficult.
Modern businesses are complex and their financial operations are even more complex. Couple that with the interaction of commercial and investment banking, stir, and then run through a shredder, and you have the raw material for a corporate fraud prosecution.
Fraud and Smoking Guns
Murder, drug trafficking and other violent crimes produce physical evidence (most of the time). Tracing complex financial fraud, on the other hand, is much more attenuated. Hard evidence is often hard to obtain. Sometimes it is unclear if a company failed because of market conditions or because of looting by management.
Once an investigation begins, discovery is necessary to cull through thousands of emails and other documents. Prosecutors then have to develop a theory of the case, a narrative that tells their version of what when wrong. None of this is easy, and translating page after page of financial spreadsheets into a compelling case demonstrating guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for a jury can be problematic.
However, if targeted by an investigation or if white collar criminal charges are imminent, it would be unwise to be complacent. Merely because white collar convictions are difficult to obtain does not mean they are impossible. Defending these cases is no easier than prosecuting them.
Also, consider the damage to reputation, even if acquitted. Aside from possibly being involved for years in a prosecution and later appeals, the public does not always equate “not guilty” with “innocent.”
Nothing to Hide?
Given the complexity of federal charges and the number of potential federal crimes, it is easy to say something that could inadvertently raise implications of a possible criminal offense.
If prosecutors want to speak with you, speak to an attorney first. An experienced Illinois white collar criminal defense attorney can work to ensure you are not an accidental target, and ensure your rights are protected.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “Crime Up, Prosecutions Down,” Dec. 7, 2011
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White Collar Prosecutions: Should There Be More?