White Collar FCPA Crooks Get Lighter Sentences than Blue Collar FCPA Crooks
26 Corporate Crime Reporter 11, March 8, 2012

It seems to be the case in corporate crime – as in life – the truth can be spoken only anonymously.

Last month, the FCPA Blog published a survey of individuals sentenced under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

“How do their sentences compare?” the FCPA blog asked. “The average FCPA-related prison term is about two years. But the sentencing range is huge and if there's a pattern, we don't see it.”

But one of FCPA’s readers did see a pattern.

The letter writer asked that his or her name not be used.

“I enjoyed your recent post on the varying FCPA sentences,” name withheld wrote to the FCPA Blog.

“My observations are that there seem to be differences in the white collar v. blue collar sentences. I define white collar as executives at very large multinationals. They seem to get little or very light sentences. On the other hand, blue collar executives are those who are at small or family controlled companies. They seem to be getting the longer sentences and appear disproportionately non-American (heritage). I haven’t done any research on this, but that’s my impression.”

“My thinking as to the cause of the white collar – blue collar discrepancies would be very basic and based on the assumption that the dichotomy actually exists in a statistically significant way.”

“That said, my theory is that larger companies pay larger fines that the Department of Justice is satisfied – or was satisfied several years ago – with in lieu of harder to achieve criminal prosecutions. A more gentle way to state the theory is that the Department of Justice would like to go after all potentially culpable individuals, but that getting evidence from overseas and dealing with the political implications is too problematic.”

“For the blue collars, it may be as simple as economics. They don’t have the big-time FCPA attorneys, they don’t have the deep pockets or other deep-pocketed fellow conspirators to turn in.”

“Perhaps even appearing to be more of a criminal as opposed to a victim makes a difference. Judges in some of the white collar cases seem to be more sympathetic to the reality of the environment rather than to the ugliness of the corruption. They may not see it that way in the blue collar cases. Hard to tell for sure…but interesting to try to decipher.”



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