Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sentencing the Wolf of Wall Street: From Leniency to Uncertainty

I have just released a new article discussing the sentencing of Jordan Belfort, better known as the "Wolf of Wall Street."  I use this case as a mechanism for considering how white collar sentencing has evolved from the 1980s until today.  In particular, the article examines the growth in uncertainty and inconsistency in sentences received by major white collar offenders over this period of time and considers some of the reasons for this trend.  The article also examines the impact of recent amendments adopted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission on white collar sentences.

Lucian E. Dervan, Sentencing the Wolf of Wall Street: From Leniency to Uncertainty, 61 Wayne Law Review -- (2015).

Abstract:

This Symposium Article, based on a presentation given by Professor Dervan at the 2014 Wayne Law Review Symposium entitled "Sentencing White Collar Defendants: How Much is Enough," examines the Jordan Belfort (“Wolf of Wall Street”) prosecution as a vehicle for analyzing sentencing in major white-collar criminal cases from the 1980s until today. In Part II, the Article examines the Belfort case and his relatively lenient prison sentence for engaging in a major fraud. This section goes on to examine additional cases from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s to consider the results of reforms aimed at “getting tough” on white-collar offenders. In concluding this initial examination, the Article discusses three observed trends. First, today, as might be expected, it appears there are much longer sentences for major white-collar offenders as compared to the 1980s and 1990s. Second, today, there also appears to be greater uncertainty and inconsistency regarding the sentences received by major white-collar offenders when compared with sentences from the 1980s and 1990s. Third, there appear to have been much smaller sentencing increases for less significant and more common white-collar offenders over this same period of time. In Part III, the Article examines some of the possible reasons for these observed trends, including amendments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, increased statutory maximums, and judicial discretion. In concluding, the Article offers some observations regarding what the perceived uncertainty and inconsistency in sentencing major white-collar offenders today might indicate about white-collar sentencing more broadly. In considering this issue, the Article also briefly examines recent amendments adopted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and proposed reforms to white-collar sentencing offered by the American Bar Association.

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