White Collar Criminals


The nation needs a Watergate-style “commission of inquiry” to investigate whether fraud and white collar criminality played the decisive role in the 2008 economic crisis, says David Brotherton, co-editor of a new book exploring the origins of the financial meltdown.

Such an inquiry, similar to the 1975 Senate investigation headed by then-Sen. Frank Church into the CIA and intelligence community's role in the Watergate scandal, would “overturn all the stones that we don't normally like to overturn,” said Brotherton, chair of the Department of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Brotherton made his comments on this month's “Criminal Justice Matters” program, aired this week on CUNY-TV, which examined a recently published book of essays on the crisis, How They Got Away With it: White Collar Criminals and the Financial Meltdown (Columbia University Press).

The essays, co-edited by Brotherton, John Jay Professor Susan Will and The Crime Report Executive Editor Stephen Handelman, were contributed by leading criminologists around the world.

Also on the program was David Shapiro, a veteran forensic accountant and former FBI agent, who contributed to the book.

Shapiro argued that while the activities of many individual CEOs and financial players could be challenged on ethical grounds, they may not have been breaking any law—and even if some were acting illegally, it would be hard to successfully prosecute them.

“The modern corporation has so many checks and balances, with such a diffusion of responsibilities, that it's tough to identify any individual as responsible for specific actions,” Shapiro said.

The program can still be seen on CUNY TV, Channel 75 in the Metropolitan area Saturday Feb 9 at 8pm and Sunday Feb 10 at 10 am. It can also be viewed on Youtube by clicking HERE.

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