U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Criminalizing White-Collar Misconduct: Determinants of Prosecution in Savings and Loan Fraud Cases

NCJ Number
Crime Volume: w Issue: Dated: Pages: 26 (1997)-76
Date Published
24 pages

Three explanations for the differential handling of white-collar offenders by the legal system were tested through an analysis of data on individuals suspected of having committed serious crimes against savings and loan institutions in the 1980s.


The analysis focused on the following three arguments: (1) an organizational advantage argument, in which offenders in organizationally shielded positions receive more lenient handling; (2) an alternative sanctions argument, in which civil sanctions replace criminal sanctions in the response to white-collar crime; and (3) a system capacity argument, in which the legal response to white-collar crime is driven primarily be resources and caseload pressures. The empirical analysis focused on criminal referrals and indictments maintained by the Office of Thrift Supervision for Texas for January 1985 through March 1993 and for California from January 1987 through December 1993. The research sought to determine the factors that influenced prosecutors to file criminal charges against some of the suspects and not against others. Findings indicated that all three models may be limited in their ability to explain low rates of prosecution in cases involving white-collar crimes of the sort examined here. These limitations may have to do with the circumscribed levels of analysis at which these explanations have been pitched. Tables and 50 references (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1997