Sep 3, 2018
Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen are both lawyers, recently convicted of breaking the law after investigation by Mueller’s team. Both knew the law. Both broke it by lying to bankers and to the IRS.
But are Manafort and Cohen really so unusual? Don’t they have a good deal of company among people paid to know the laws, like corporate officials, lawyers and accountants?
What is different today, and has been changing for decades, is how much the law is enforced and against who. If you hold up someone with a gun, getting $50, you are likely to end up in jail. If you rob shareholders of millions, you are NOT likely to end up in jail.
In 2008, the world headed to economic catastrophe after the shenanigans at Lehman Brothers started a collapse of the banking system. In the end, taxpayers from all the rich countries bailed out the big banks in the U.S. and Europe to the tune of TRILLIONS of dollars. Did anyone go to jail? Ha, ha, not a one of those corporate investment officials or banking executives.
The FBI and IRS say they do not have the manpower to do white collar crime. The justice department brings few cases and finds judges hostile when they do so. A recent Supreme Court ruling regulated a five-year time limit on enforcement actions by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The press has fewer reporters and they cover fewer stories, including about corporate crime.
These are conscious choices by those who run a system of, by and for the rich. Overall, prosecutions of white collar crime by the federal government are down by at least one third in the past three decades, under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
So crooks in the upper echelons can just say, “Bring it on!” No worries! The little guys get jail, but the big guys don’t even pay court fees.