White-Collar Crime

Sentencing Commission to consider penalties for economic crimes

The U.S. Sentencing Commission will consider revising penalties for economic crimes this year, according to priorities adopted on Thursday.

Defense lawyers are pushing for reduced penalties for certain white-collar criminals as some judges have rejected the guidelines as too harsh, the Associated Press reports. The Sentencing Commission indicated it wants to address the issue when it set priorities, according to a press release (PDF).

Sentences for white-collar criminals are typically based on the total financial loss caused by the crime. A proposal by an ABA task force suggests judges should put less emphasis on the financial loss and more emphasis on motive, the length and sophistication of the scheme, and whether the defendant actually benefited, according to the AP story.

One of the judges who is a critic of the financial sentencing guidelines is U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who sentenced convicted inside trader Rajat Gupta to two years in prison, well below the guidelines recommendation of eight to 10 years. At an ABA meeting, he backed “a nonarithmetic, multifactor test” in sentencing.

“The way it’s set up now,” Rakoff said in a Newsweek interview published in June, “ you may be the lead offender in a crime or the low man on the totem pole and still get the same sentence.”

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