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Sentences for insider trading are on the rise, study says

by | Nov 14, 2015 | Fraud Law

On behalf of Dan Guthrie

Critics question logic behind sentences that now rival some violent crimes

According to a recent study by Reuters, sentences for insider trading have risen dramatically in recent years. Over a five-year period ending in December 2013, sentences for the crime went up by nearly a third compared to the previous five years. Analysts say the increase is due to the growing size of many insider trading schemes, but critics question the logic of sentencing nonviolent people to prison terms that often exceed the terms handed down to violent offenders.

Insider trading targeted

In the five-year period studied, ending in December 2013, the study found that the average prison sentence for insider trading was 17.3 months, compared to 13.1 months in the five years previous to that period. Additionally, the two longest sentences ever handed down for insider trading were delivered in the last three years alone, one an 11-year sentence and the other a 12-year sentence.

Analysts say that sentencing guidelines for white collar crimes, like insider trading, are largely based on the profits a defendant makes or the corporate losses that are avoided through an illegal scheme. As alleged schemes have involved larger sums of money in recent years, the sentences have likewise increased.

Sentences “outrageous”

Some critics, however, have called the logic behind the recent sentences into question, with the defense attorney for one insider trading defendant calling a recommended 20-year sentence “outrageous.” According to the New York Times, insider trading sentences are beginning to rival the sentences handed down for assault and robbery, despite the fact that insider traders pose little threat to public safety and the crime wasn’t even prosecuted a few decades ago.

Those critics say that many people accused of insider trading are also given disproportionately longer sentences if they choose to go to trial rather than cooperate with prosecutors. In a recent high-profile case, for example, most of those involved in an insider trading scheme who provided information about the scheme to prosecutors faced little or no prison time. The one person who refused to provide information, however, received a nine-year sentence.

Legal representation

As the above article shows, an accusation of insider trading or other white collar crime can result in serious and, at times, extremely harsh sentences. While such lengthy sentences may not seem fair, they do highlight an extremely important point: the need for an experienced and qualified criminal defense attorney for those charged with a white collar crime. Such an attorney can give his clients the expert advice they need in dealing with a criminal charge, including exploring options that may result in a more lenient sentence.