We rarely view white collar crime the same as other offenses. But we should. And people should go to jail even if they have a corner office.
Believe it or not, a rich executive is going to prison — for seven years. But more on him later. It’s just so rare that I see a white collar crime story like this one. I thought I’d shine a light on it.
When it’s your job to follow the news every day, one theme that reveals itself over time is that you get the justice you can afford. There seems to be a direct correlation between what caliber lawyer you can afford and the justice, or lack thereof, a client will get. In other words, the US justice system is disproportionately severe the poorer you are. When you add race on top of low income, things become even worse.
According to a study by the NAACP “If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40 percent.”
Just do a quick search on your Google machine for justice inequality by income and race, and you’ll fall down a rabbit hole. The evidence is very convincing.
Case in point: for the entire financial meltdown of 2008, I was able to find two executives that did jail time. ONLY TWO! So for all those people involved in gaming the entire United States mortgage and banking industries, you’re telling me that only two of them committed a crime? These banking and Wall Street executives took billions of dollars out of the economy and did zero jail time. Most Wall Street moguls and bank executives left with millions in their golden parachute. There were a few strongly worded articles that called people out, but very few paid with their freedom. It was the average American left holding the bag and shouldering the pain.
So I have to admit that I felt some satisfaction when I saw the headline today coming out of Detroit: “VW executive gets seven years for U.S. emissions fraud.”
Why do we have such a bias when it comes to white collar crime? Should it matter if a guy is wearing a fancy suit and committing his theft from a corner office instead of smashing the window of your car? Especially when the guy in the suit is stealing millions of dollars, and the smash and grab is for hundreds?
This scam has reportedly cost Volkswagen over $30 billion dollars. That doesn’t cause me to lose any sleep.
I hope that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the executives who knew they were breaking the law.
But I doubt it.
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