How Do They Get Away With It? Tracking Financial Crime in the New Era



Lydia Rosner, Danny Kessler and Panelist Sam Antar; Photo by John Martin, of the Columbia School of Journalism

On April 1-2, 2009, the McCormick Foundation and John Jay Center on Media, Crime and Justice held a two day Specialized Reporting Institute on covering financial crimes. Entitled “How Do They Get Away With It? Tracking Financial Crime in the New Era,” the conference and workshops featured panelists including former SEC regulators, FBI agents, economics professors and even a white-collar crook.

Below are resources from the conference, including links to The Crime Report’s live-blogging of both days, articles by conference fellows, case studies and materials handed out to attendees. Stay tuned for more photos and video of the event.

Live-Blogging the Conference: Day 1 and Day 2

Articles by conference fellows:


“Regulators Struggle to Contain Foreclosure Fraud” by John W. Schoen


“Ponzi Schemes Flourish with Vulnerable Victims, Underfunded Watchdogs” by Andrew McIntosh

“Ponzi Scheme Perpetrators Exploit Some Common Misperceptions” by Andrew McIntosh

Graphic: “Red Flags for Ponzi Schemes” by Andrew McIntosh


“A Staggering Swindle: How Could it Happen in 2008?” by Kelly Bennett and Will Carless


“Stanford Coaxed $5 billion as SEC Weighed Powers” by Alison Fitzgerald and Michael Forsythe


“County Probe Widens Into Politics” by Gary Craig


“Ponzi Schemes Seem to Proliferate in Tough Economic Times” by Alison Grant


Professor William Black (panelist) discussing financial fraud on the Bill Moyers Journal and interviewed in Barrons.

Panelist William D. Cohan, author of “House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street” interviewed by The Crime Report.

Conference Resources:

Resource Guide: Reporting on Financial Crime

Case Study: The Charlotte Observer

Prof. William Black Power Point: Accounting Fraud

Frauds and Swindles

More Reporting Resources (generously submitted by panelist Elaine Carey, Senior VP of Control Risks)

The lobbyist database from the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets) is great and easy to use. It links directly to pdf filings and lets you see if someone is a registered lobbyist, who they are registered with, and who they lobby. You can also see how much they make from each client.

The Environmental Working Group's farm subsidy database is a great way of calling out politicians who complain about “government handouts” and then take tons of money in farm subsidies for their ranches and farms.

People frequently don't think about state donations, but they can be incredibly important when looking to see if someone is buy influence at the state level. The National Institute on Money in State Politics is a great way to start when looking to see if someone is giving a ton at this level. You should always check out the state's own website too, as they sometimes have more complete information

The Federal Register lets you see copies of notices and actions published by federal agencies – helpful when looking to see if someone has been sanctioned, for instance. lets you see what groups have received federal grants and contracts.

The EPA has a good website that lets you check to see if a company/facility is EPA compliant or if there have been any enforcement actions taken against it.

WikiFOIA is a website that compiles information about open records availability en each state. It can help you find out what information is available and links to a “letter generator” for each state that conforms to that state's open records laws.

The Center for Public Integrity compiles financial disclosure statements for state legislators. This is a good way to see who they've worked for, where they hold directorships, what they hold stock in, etc. It also has a rundown of various disclosure requirements for different states.

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