How Do They Get Away With It: Tracking Financial Crime in a New Era

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financialcrime-300x200On April 1 and April 2, 2009, the Center on Media, Crime and Justice and McCormick Foundation hosted a specialized reporting institute, “How Do they get Away With it? Tracking Financial Crime in the New Era.”

Twenty-One fellows from around the country joined panelists and speakers such as: Patrick Carroll, Supervisory Special Agent, FBI, New York Office, Sam Antar, Former CFO, Fast Eddie’s, Peter Turecek, Senior Managing Director, Business Intelligence & Investigations, Kroll and Walter Ricciardi, Former SEC Deputy Chief, Division of Enforcement.

Access the program brochure here.

Researchers at John Jay College compiled a research guide of the most relevant contacts in the financial industry.  Download a copy of the guide.
Before the sub-prime crisis captured national attention, a reporter for The Charlotte Observer noticed a strange pattern while compiling a list of foreclosed homes in North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County — clusters were concentrated in new developments and they wondered if faulty loans were behind the trend.

The year-long investigation led to The Charlotte Observer’s four-part series, “ Sold a Nightmare.”  Lawmakers in North Carolina passed new mortgage regulations in response to the series and federal and criminal investigations of Beazer are underway.


Understand how the reporters investigated this fraud. Read the case study here.

Read live blogging from the conference.

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

“Massive real estate losses hidden at California bank “ by Andrew McIntosh

“Jerry Brown donations tied to businessmen” by Andrew McIntosh

$2 million settles kickback ” by Andrew McIntosh

“Brown returns $52,500 to donors” 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


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

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 Handouts:

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.

Video from the Conference

Video 1: Did white collar crime and fraud trigger the economic meltdown?

Video 2: Were regulators asleep?

Video 3: Did journalists miss the story?

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