From the President

Why no top execs prosecuted after the Great Recession?


By James D. Ratley, CFE

In the last 30 years, we've seen top executives prosecuted during the S&L debacle, the junk bond scandal, Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and other monumental crimes. However, we never saw prosecutions of any high-level execs after the recent Great Recession. Why?

Jed S. Rakoff, U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York, says in our cover article that the reasons for the government's lack of prosecutions ranged "from the diversion of FBI agents to other priorities to prosecutors' increasing unfamiliarity with how to pursue such cases."

But two primary reasons stand out, he says. "First, beginning in the late 1990s, the Department of Justice became increasingly enamored with the vague — and in my view misguided — notion that prosecuting corporations instead of individuals would affect a change in ‘corporate culture' that would make companies more law-abiding," says Rakoff, a keynoter at the upcoming 27th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, June 12-17 in Las Vegas.

"Second, and probably most important, prosecuting companies is easy — because companies ultimately have to settle or face potential ruin — and enables prosecutors to trumpet quick successes without employing substantial resources or courting defeat," he says.

In a November 2011 ruling, Rakoff tossed out a settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Citigroup that allowed the firm, without admitting guilt, to pay a $285 million fine for allegedly selling a billion-dollar fund filled with toxic mortgage debt. On June 4, 2011, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Citigroup ruling. But Rakoff was able to say his piece.

In his opinion, he wrote, "The SEC's long-standing policy — hallowed by history, but not by reason — of allowing defendants to enter into consent judgments without admitting or denying the underlying allegations, deprives the court of even the most minimal assurance that the substantial injunctive relief it is being asked to impose has any basis in fact. …

"In any case like this that touches on the transparency of financial markets whose gyrations have so depressed our economy and debilitated our lives, there is an overriding public interest in knowing the truth," Rakoff wrote.

The ACFE, during the 27th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, will present Rakoff with the Cressey Award.

James D. Ratley, CFE, President of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, can be reached at: jratley@ACFE.com.






Click here to Login and leave a comment...

Reviews