Federal sentencing guidelines for economic crime have long been subject to criticism due to high dollar loss amounts that can produce eye-popping prison terms.
Adding to the fodder, a new report issued by the United States Sentencing Commission found that securities and investment fraud offenders received the longest average sentences under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines—more than twice as long as the average sentence for all economic crime offenders. The report, What Does Federal Economic Crime Really Look Like?, analyzes sentences imposed under § 2B1.1 of the Guidelines, which is the section that applies to most financial fraud cases, including those involving securities, bank, mail and wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy.
The report is chock full of data, but one of the Commission’s big-picture findings was that the average sentences for 29 categories of economic crime vary significantly. Not surprisingly, the report ties these variations to certain guideline enhancements, including loss amounts. For example, the report notes that in 2017, the median loss amount for securities and investment fraud was $2,105,620, a loss amount that corresponds to a 16-level increase under the Guidelines. This enhancement is substantially higher than any other specific offense type analyzed in the report.