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Difficulties in prosecuting white collar crime

Some people in Illinois may have followed some of the many financial scandals that have occurred in recent years. Those who have questions about why there were successful prosecutions in some cases and not in others might find the answers in the book "Capital Offenses: Business Crime and Punishment in America's Corporate Age."

The author, who formerly worked on the U.S. Justice Department Enron Co. Task Force, spent years carefully looking at accounting procedures that crossed the line from aggressive to fraudulent. Executives were not prosecuted specifically because of that fraudulent accounting activity.

As the author explains, one difficulty in prosecuting white collar crime is that corporations are set up so that personal liability is lessened. This means capital can be shared with less responsibility, and the complexity of these corporations makes it easier for management to deny knowledge of wrongdoing. The author suggests remedies, but there are potential problems with their implementation. For example, he says states could be more exacting about what companies are allowed to incorporate. However, this flies in the faces of states' tendencies to encourage incorporation. Furthermore, he says corporate managers might be required to have greater public duties, but he does not detail what those duties would be.

White collar crime accusations have professional as well as legal reverberations. Some people may not even realize that they are under investigation. For example, a person might initially just be questioned. People who are concerned about an ongoing investigation might want to speak to an attorney even if they do not believe themselves to be the main target.

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