White collar crime focus: Will tough proposed legislation fly?

There has always been debate – some of it strident – surrounding the singular realm of white collar crime in America. In a discussion marked by polar-opposite opinions, competing viewpoints will passionately disagree over whether collar probes and outcomes are draconian or too lax in addressing defendants’ conduct. White collar crime exchanges seldom spotlight consensus or middle ground.

Sharp back-and-forth dialogue has only escalated in recent years, especially in the wake of the now decade-only financial crisis that roiled the United States and many of its major companies.

Legions of individuals and groups have consistently voiced sharp disapproval of white collar criminal enforcement efforts and outcomes following the country’s economic meltdown. Their rhetoric has consistently endorsed beefed-up investigatory probes, enhanced focus on high-ranking executives and more stringent sentencing outcomes.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) has long been a prominent voice for collective American opinion that favors more white collar prosecutions and convictions, especially for corporate principals. Her focus on that topic is especially pronounced right now, which likely strikes many people as unsurprising. Warren is of course a presidential candidate, and her pet concern — corporate fraud and executive malfeasance – spells high-profile subject matter that guarantees a mass audience.

What readers of our blog might reasonably expect to hear far more about in upcoming months is Warren-authored legislation that seeks to materially alter relevant federal law regarding white collar prosecutions. Her proposed Corporate Executive Accountability Act would greatly modify the threshold standard currently required to impose liability on upper-end decision makers like company CEOS, presidents and directors.

There is of course much argument surrounding the would-be law. We will take a closer look at its dictates in our next blog post.