Why Corrupt Bankers Avoid Jail

Prosecution of white-collar crime is at a twenty-year low.

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Media Outlet: The New Yorker

Patrick Radden Keefe wrote for the New Yorker on the lack of prosecution of white-collar criminals and the impunity of large financial institutions in the United States:

In the years since the mortgage crisis of 2008, it has become common to observe that certain financial institutions and other large corporations may be “too big to jail.” The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which investigated the causes of the meltdown, concluded that the mortgage-lending industry was rife with “predatory and fraudulent practices.” In 2011, Ray Brescia, a professor at Albany Law School who had studied foreclosure procedures, told Reuters, “I think it’s difficult to find a fraud of this size . . . in U.S. history.” Yet federal prosecutors filed no criminal indictments against major banks or senior bankers related to the mortgage crisis. Even when the authorities uncovered less esoteric, easier-to-prosecute crimes—such as those committed by HSBC—they routinely declined to press charges.


Patrick Radden Keefe was a Class of 2017 Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellow at New America. He is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine and the author of Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping, and The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream