As we noted in a recent blog post, the topic of white collar crime was, until relatively recently, a comparatively staid and back-burner type of focus area within the larger realm of criminal law.
And then, as many commentators have pointed out, a number of large-scale financial scandals that began occurring earlier this century, followed by the nation's mammoth housing collapse and so-called Great Recession, made white collar crime a truly hot-button item.
As we noted in our March 30 blog post, "high-profile fraudulent activity ... over the past handful-plus of years has elevated the subject matter to a front-page agenda topic."
We informed readers in that post entry that the U.S. Sentencing Commission -- a judicial branch agency that makes sentencing recommendations for the federal courts -- recently put forth a number of recommendations that its members believe need implementing to inject greater logic and fairness into sentencing outcomes for many white collar defendants.
Those recommendations have now been tweaked and finally approved by the USSC, with the next step being congressional review. Ultimately, the recommendations could take effect from November this year.
A recent media article summarizing the proposals notes that they would result in only moderate changes to existing sentencing guidelines. One commentator and advocate for sentencing reforms calls them "disappointing," saying that reforms needed in the white collar sentencing area lag those that are being noted in prison terms being imposed on defendants charged with other types of crimes, such as certain drug offenses.
That critic cites sentencing inflation that has resulted in unduly harsh penalties for some nonviolent and first-time white collar defendants.
As stated, congressional review is the next step in the process for the USSC recommendations.