The Sarbanes-Oxley Effect on White Collar Criminal Sentences

Lora Bentley

A new study by Wayne State University law professor Peter J. Henning says the prison sentences imposed upon white collar criminals have gotten longer since Sarbanes-Oxley was enacted in 2002. According to the abstract at Social Science Research Network:

[T]he law adopted new crimes and pushed the United States Sentencing Commission to enhance the Federal Sentencing Guidelines provisions for fraud and related offenses. Even before the adoption of the Act, the Commission had increased the potential punishment for white collar crimes by amending the loss table for fraud offenses. These two steps played a key role in the increased sentences imposed on defendants convicted for their role in corporate crimes ...

I talked to Axentis VP Brett Curran about those sentencing guideline provisions just last month. The courts use them, he said, to determine just punishment in cases of corporate crime. He pointed out that if companies proactively implement the standards outlined in the guidelines, the risk that they will fall victim to corporate fraud decreases significantly.


The abstract says Henning's study uses a hypothetical case to demonstrate how the courts can interpret and apply the guidelines to craft sentences specific to unique circumstances.

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