the violence of white collar crime

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Re: the violence of white collar crime

Postby admin » Thu Feb 19, 2009 8:47 pm

Ex-soldier shot himself after losing fortune in Madoff fraud
By Cahal Milmo, Chief reporter
Willard Foxton said Madoff was guilty of ruining his father's life

William Foxton was fond of drawing on his long military career and experience of danger to give his son tongue-in-cheek advice about what to do in the direst emergencies: if attacked by a polar bear, the best thing was to lie perfectly still and play dead; if a space station suddenly depressurised, his counsel was to avoid exploding the lungs by exhaling.

But when Willard Foxton, 28, phoned his father a fortnight ago, he found him devoid of his normal wit and wrestling with a catastrophe to which he could see no solution – the loss of his entire life savings, worth up to £1m,in the alleged bogus investment scheme run by Wall Street fund-manager Bernard Madoff.

William was a distinguished career soldier who served in the French Foreign Legion and the British Army before working in the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. He told his son: "I'm sorry Willard, I can't really concentrate; you see I lost all of the family money to the Bernie Madoff scam, and I think I'm going to have to declare myself bankrupt."

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The son also recalled yesterday that "he confided in me that he was in 'an absolute shit-fight' with his banks," over his life savings invested in two Madoff hedge funds.

The depth of the despair felt by Mr Foxton, 65, a recipient of the MBE and OBE who retired last November after 40 years of military service and charity work, only became clear on Tuesday afternoon. He left his Southampton home and walked to a small walled park close to the city's magistrates' court. Sitting down on a bench he put a semi-automatic pistol to his head and fired a single shot.

Despite the efforts of paramedics to save him, the former army major became, in the grimmest possible sense, the latest victim of the giant Ponzi scheme that Madoff is accused of running with the loss of £35bn of investors' money. Up to three million people worldwide, many of them ordinary individuals saving for retirement, are thought to have lost money in the Madoff scheme and associated funds when they collapsed last December.

For Willard Foxton yesterday, there was no doubt where the responsibility for his father's death lay – on the shoulders of Madoff, who is under house arrest in New York, and others responsible for the sham hedge funds. In an internet tribute to his father, Mr Foxton said: "Essentially I want Madoff and others involved to know that they have my father's blood on their hands ... My first thought was to show up at Madoff's trial in New York and throw all of my father's medals in his face. I think it's disgusting that Bernie Madoff is sitting in his New York property, thinking that all he did was steal money, when, in fact, what he was really doing was ruining lives."

Mr Foxton was no stranger to risk, albeit of a very different order to that run by Wall Street's investment gurus. Among the deluge of tributes being paid to him yesterday was a tale from a former colleague on the European Commission Monitoring Mission to the former Yugoslavia, recalling how Mr Foxton, who lost an arm in a grenade blast in 1976, crawled into a minefield to rescue a child.

During his many postings abroad, including in the Sultan of Oman's armed forces, Mr Foxton built up a body of savings and in the late 1980s began investing in two hedge funds – Herald USA Fund and Herald Luxemburg Fund. Both collapsed late last year when it emerged that they had been invested in the Madoff scheme.
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Re: the violence of white collar crime

Postby admin » Thu Feb 05, 2009 10:28 am

In September 2008, a 23-year-old woman from West Norriton, Pennsylvania, robbed a bank, police reported, to pay her rent. According to East Norriton Detective Sgt. Peter Mastrocola, "She said that the reason that she went to PNC Bank and committed the robbery was because she was two months behind in her rent and she was going to be evicted." In fact, after stealing $1,410, the young woman reportedly told police that she "took the cash from the robbery and went to another bank where she purchased a cashier's check for $1,410 made payable to Westover Village Apartments…"

The next month, in Northampton, Pennsylvania, a 49-year-old woman reportedly robbed a bank and, just 18 minutes later, "arrived at a check-cashing business and arranged for several money orders -- totaling $1,090 -- to pay a portion of the rent she owed her landlord." According to court papers, a "confidential informant" told police the woman had confided that "she was going to rob the bank to satisfy about $1,800 in back rent." The police reported that she was "in the process of being evicted."

This, however, is no Keystone State phenomenon. As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, "Another sign of the bad economic times… [b]ank robberies, which had been declining for years, rose in 2008 in Southern California… [by] 22% compared to 2007." In Orange County, the spike was especially acute, a jump of 41% to 145 robberies. Similarly, Inland Empire News Radio reported that authorities attributed a 13% rise in bank robberies in Riverside and San Bernardino counties to a "poor economy."

"We've certainly seen a rise in bank robberies across the country particularly in our metropolitan areas," FBI Special Agent Scott Wilson recently pointed out. "The bank robbery rate has risen dramatically."

Last year, according to the New York City Police Department, bank robberies in that city jumped to more than 430, a 54% rise over 2007. On December 29th alone, CNN noted, "robbers targeted five banks in the Big Apple, some striking in broad daylight and near famous landmarks." Interviewed by the New York Times, a customer in one of the robbed banks put the obvious into words: "It makes me think that the recession is making people go to extreme measures." Illinois Wesleyan University Economics Professor Mike Seeborg agrees. Commenting on a similar local spike in crime, he told a Central Illinois TV station, "There's a clear linkage nationwide that when the economy is in bad shape, when unemployment begins to increase, if people lose their jobs and output falls, that crimes against property especially increase."

Suicidal Tendencies

At least 33 people chose to commit suicide in national parks in 2008. And there seemed to be an economic component to at least some of the cases. For example, an Associated Press report noted that a "49-year-old builder blamed the economy in a note he left for his ex-wife and attorney before killing himself at the edge of the woods at Georgia's Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park." Similarly, in October, Bruce J. Colburn, a "[f]reshly unemployed, former business executive" from Reading, Pennsylvania, traveled to Montana's scenic Glacier National Park where "he shot himself in the chest with a handgun, according to park officials."

Others stayed closer to home.

On October 14, 2008, a woman in Bogart, Georgia, was "supposed to go to court for an eviction hearing." Instead, she called the police and informed them that she was thinking of killing herself. Not long afterward, she shot herself in the head. On October 29th, a 47-year-old man from Blount County, Tennessee, "killed himself when sheriff's deputies tried to evict him from his rented home." The next month, according to Mike Witzky, the executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board in Union County, Ohio, two local men committed suicide due to financial problems, while another failed in his attempt.

On December 5, 2008, Ricky Guseman of West Palm Beach, Florida, was to be evicted. Instead, local officials told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, he "barricaded himself in a mobile home… set the place on fire and then shot himself in the head with a shotgun."

In December, coroner's investigators in Kern County, California, revealed that they were "seeing a wave of people committing suicide because of financial stress," a 5-10% increase over 2007.

An analysis of 2008 "death reports" in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, by local ABC television affiliate WISN-TV found "[f]inancial pressure in a difficult economy has led to desperate measures." Of 108 suicides -- a 20% jump over any of the last three years -- at least 25% of the victims "were struggling financially." For example, Wauwatosa resident Tom Brisch, a married father of two, fell on hard times after his wife of 20 years, Sherry, lost her job. At the same time, his job as a commission-only Ford car salesman fell victim to the sluggish auto market. As Sherry summed the situation up after his suicide, "[T]he economic picture with a kid going to college, another one starting high school... was pretty grim and we were struggling." She returned home one day to find that her husband had hanged himself. In his shirt pocket was a suicide note in which "he asked for forgiveness and wrote that he could not get it together to provide for them."

WISN-TV uncovered a host of similar tragedies including:

* A 21-year-old Milwaukee man who shot himself in the face after "he ran out of unemployment [insurance]."

* A 43-year-old West Allis man who hanged himself in his basement with a belt. "[T]he mortgage payments are behind," his girlfriend told the police. "There are astronomical medical bills."

* A 40-year-old Milwaukee woman who overdosed after having "financial problems."

* A 24-year-old Milwaukee man, "fired from his job three weeks before," who suffocated himself with Saran Wrap.

* And a 38-year-old Milwaukee man who shot himself in the head. He'd lost his job six weeks earlier.

In January, less than an hour's drive south of Milwaukee, 37-year-old Staci Paul's car was pulled from Lake Michigan, but they couldn't find the body of the Kenosha, Wisconsin, woman. As an article in the Kenosha News noted, however, friends "said they knew things hadn't been easy for Paul. A single mother, she worked hard to find jobs and as the economy worsened, friends speculated, Paul might have run into some financial trouble. Court records also show Paul had been evicted from her home in October."

Distress Signals

Paul apparently felt she had to deal with her problems on her own. Others, however, have called for help. According to a January 9th report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, local police received a phone call concerning a 64-year-old resident of Westview, Pennsylvania, who was "apparently distraught over losing his house." When they arrived at the home, they found him "sitting in a lawn chair in his driveway with a rifle under his chin." He was later taken into custody and sent to a psychiatric clinic for "evaluation."

Increasing numbers of desperate souls have also called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which logged a record 568,437 calls in 2008. (There were only 412,768 such calls the previous year.) Similarly, a recent investigation by USA Today's Marilyn Elias found that suicide hotlines in Dallas, Pittsburgh, suburban San Francisco, Hyattsville (Maryland), Georgia, Delaware, and Detroit have all reported "increases in callers since the economy slid." The report added:

"In Boston, more hotline callers with mental health problems mention job losses, evictions or fear that they'll lose their homes, says Roberta Hurtig, executive director at Samaritans Inc. [a not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the incidence of suicide.] In Kalamazoo, Mich[igan], and other locales, callers with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder say loss of insurance and cutbacks in public health programs are preventing them from getting medications.
"At the Gary, Ind[iana], Crisis Center, suicidal callers with economic worries are increasing, and their depression is more severe, says Willie Perry, program coordinator for the hotline."

In Franklin County, Ohio, suicide hot line volunteers are "logging more calls from people in financial distress, says Mary Brennen-Hofmann, coordinator of suicide-prevention services at North Central Mental Health Services in Columbus." She continued, "We have seen a lot more calls dealing with financial problems, evictions, foreclosures and job loss."

Similarly, the Hopeline of North Carolina Inc. in Raleigh saw a 50% jump in calls in October and November. "We get calls from people who are suicidal because the stock market is down," said executive director Courtney Atwood. "They have lost money and are not able to provide for their family."

In Los Angeles, calls to the city's "busiest suicide hot line" increased by as much as 60% last year. "A year ago, many of the calls we would get were from people with mental illnesses," commented Sandri Kramer, the program director of the center that operates the hot line. "Now many of the calls are from people who have lost their home, or their job, or who still have a job but can't meet the cost of living."

Domestic Disturbances

Not surprisingly, the economic meltdown has also strained marriages and, according to experts, is contributing to a rise in domestic violence. Retha Fielding, a spokeswoman for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, notes that calls increased 18% between October 2007 and October 2008 and attributes the spike to the poor economy. "It is bringing increased stress and violence into the home. Domestic violence is about control. If you lose your job, that's control you don't have, so you may want to have more control at home."

Sometimes economically exacerbated violence can turn deadly.

On December 9th, for example, 59-year-old Thomas Garrett of Midwest City, Oklahoma, murdered his wife. According to Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes, "Garrett told officers he shot his wife because he didn't know how to explain that they were evicted from their home while she was in the hospital." He apparently planned to kill himself too, but was stopped by the police.

Thirty-one-year-old Eryn Allegra had lost her home as well as her job, and had, according to press accounts, been thinking about suicide for weeks. On Christmas day, the Port St. Lucie, Florida, resident reportedly checked into a hotel, gave her 8-year-old son over-the-counter medicine to put him to sleep, and then smothered him. She subsequently slit her own wrists in a failed suicide attempt.

Noting a man's pickup truck parked in his driveway at a time when he was normally at work, neighbors in an "upscale neighborhood" in Manteca, Georgia, entered his home which a bank had recently approved for a short sale. (A short sale often takes place when a buyer in default is trying to avoid foreclosure.) According to the Manteca Bulletin, they found him "lying in the foyer of the home… dead of a gunshot wound." Arriving at the scene soon after, police discovered the body of his wife nearby "and located a firearm near the two bodies."

On January 11th, Pinole, California police responding to a domestic disturbance call found 43-year-old Kimberly Petretti sitting on the curb in front of the home. She was being evicted that morning. Inside the house, which "showed no signs of a preparation for the move," they found the woman's mother, 62-year-old Claudia Petretti, dead -- shot in the head with an assault rifle. According to Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett, a two-page letter on the scene indicated a murder-suicide plan linked to the family's financial difficulties. "It was a significant event in their lives that may have precipitated this tragic and desperate act," he said.

Last October, a man in Los Angeles, beset by financial troubles, shot his wife, mother-in-law, and three sons before turning the gun on himself. An eerily similar scene replayed itself this week, when another Los Angeles resident apparently killed his wife and five children -- an 8-year-old girl, twin 5-year-old girls, and twin 2-year-old boys -- before faxing a letter to a local television station and then killing himself. "This was a financial and job-related issue that led to the slayings," Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner ... h.htmlsaid. "In these tough economic times, there are other options. In my 32 years, I've never seen anything like this."

As the World Burns

On December 15th, a 41-year-old Dubuque, Iowa man "used liquid pre-shave to set his apartment on fire because he thought he was going to be evicted."

On December 21st, a 31-year-old woman who had been evicted from her Orange Park, Florida, apartment, "started a weekend fire that caused an estimated $500,000 in damage" to the complex that was her former home. That same day, a woman in St. Augustine, Florida, "was charged with arson… after vacating a house she was evicted from that was later found burning."

On January 5, 2009, Bobby Crigler, the property manager for Holly Street Apartments in Fayetteville, Arkansas, said, "I went over and had a confrontation with [tenants about an eviction notice], and they got belligerent." After that, he sent the property's maintenance man, his son, 49-year-old Kent Crigler, to change the locks at another tenant's apartment. When friends of the tenant facing eviction spotted Kent, they assumed, according to Bobby, that he was there to evict their buddy. They set upon Kent, punching and kicking the father of four to death, according to a report in the Northwest Arkansas Times.

Generally, however, if you weren't a multimillionaire intent on suicide, what you did to your house, your husband, your wife, your child, your bank, your neighbors, your landlord, or yourself remained a distinctly local story, a passing moment in the neighborhood gazette or a regional paper. And for the range of such acts, unlike sports statistics, there are no centralized databases toting up and keeping score. Every now and then, though, a spectacular act of extreme desperation makes it out of the neighborhood and into the national news.

One of these occurred this January, although the media generally played it as a sensational screwball story rather than another extreme act stemming from the economic crisis. In December, Marcus Schrenker, a money manager and sometime stunt pilot, penned a letter that read, in part: "It needs to be known that I am financially insolvent… I am intending on filing bankruptcy in 2009 should my financial conditions continue to deteriorate." They did.

As the Indiana investment adviser grew more desperate to escape mounting financial difficulties and legal issues stemming from accusations of investor fraud, he reportedly hatched a plan that was splashed all over national television as it unfolded. According to news reports, he staged a Hollywood-style getaway from his rapidly deteriorating life, complete with a fake mid-air mayday call, a parachute jump over Alabama, and a faked death from a plane he put on autopilot that crashed in a swamp near a residential area in the Florida Panhandle. Schrenker then raced away on a carefully pre-stashed motorcycle, before being discovered by federal marshals just after he had slashed his wrists at a Florida campsite. He recently pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges that he willfully destroyed an aircraft and made a fake distress call.

Going to Extremes

Across the United States, people have been reacting to dire circumstances with extreme acts, including murder, suicide and suicide attempts, self-inflicted injury, bank robberies, flights from the law, and arson, as well as resistance to eviction and armed self-defense. And yet, while various bailout schemes have been introduced and implemented for banks and giant corporations, no significant plans have been outlined or introduced into public debate, let alone implemented by Washington, to take strong measures to combat the dire circumstances affecting ordinary Americans.

There has been next to no talk of debt or mortgage forgiveness, or of an enhanced and massively bulked-up version of the Nixonian guaranteed income plan (which would pay stipends to the neediest), or of buying up and handing over the glut of homes on the market, with adequate fix-up funds, to the homeless, or of any significant gesture toward even the most modest redistributions of wealth. Until then, for many, hope will be nothing but a slogan, the body count will rise, and Americans will undoubtedly continue going to extremes.

Nick Turse is the associate editor and research director of His first book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, an exploration of the new military-corporate complex in America, was recently published by Metropolitan Books. His website is Nick

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Re: the violence of white collar crime

Postby admin » Thu Feb 05, 2009 10:27 am

The Financial Crisis Is Driving Hordes of Americans to Suicide
By Nick Turse,
Posted on January 29, 2009, Printed on February 5, 2009

The body count is still rising. For months on end, marked by bankruptcies, foreclosures, evictions, and layoffs, the economic meltdown has taken a heavy toll on Americans. In response, a range of extreme acts including suicide, self-inflicted injury, murder, and arson have hit the local news. By October 2008, an analysis of press reports nationwide indicated that an epidemic of tragedies spurred by the financial crisis had already spread from Pasadena, California, to Taunton, Massachusetts, from Roseville, Minnesota, to Ocala, Florida.

In the three months since, the pain has been migrating upwards. A growing number of the world's rich have garnered headlines for high profile, financially-motivated suicides. Take the New Zealand-born "millionaire financier" who leapt in front of an express train in Great Britain or the "German tycoon" who did much the same in his homeland. These have, with increasing regularity, hit front pages around the world. An example would be New York-based money manager René-Thierry Magnon de la Villehuchet, who slashed his wrists after he "lost more than $1 billion of client money, including much, if not all, of his own family's fortune." In the end, he was yet another victim of financial swindler Bernard Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

An unknown but rising number of less wealthy but distinctly well-off workers in the financial field have also killed themselves as a result of the economic crisis -- with less press coverage. Take, for instance, a 51-year-old former analyst at Bear Stearns. Learning that he would be laid off after JPMorgan Chase took over his failed employer, he "threw himself out of the window" of his 29th-floor apartment in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Or consider the 52-year-old commercial real estate broker from suburban Chicago who "took his life in a wildlife preserve" just "a month after he publicly worried over a challenging market," or the 50-year-old "managing partner at Leeward Investments" from San Carlos, California, who got wiped out "in the markets" and "suffocated himself to death."

Beverly Hills clinical psychologist Leslie Seppinni caught something of our moment when she told Forbes magazine that this was "the first time in her 18-year career that businessmen are calling her with suicidal impulses over their financial state." In the last three months, alone, "she has intervened in at least 14 cases of men seriously considering taking their lives." Seppinni offered this observation: "They feel guilt and shame because they think they should have known what was coming with the market or they should have pulled out faster."

Still, it's mostly on Main Street, not Wall Street, that people are being driven to once unthinkable extremes. And while it's always impossible to know the myriad factors, including deeply personal ones, that contribute to drastic acts, violent or otherwise, many of those recently reported are undoubtedly tied, at least in part, to the way the bottom seems to be falling out of the economy.

As a result, reports of people driven to anything from armed robbery to financially-motivated suicide in response to new fiscal realities continue to bubble to the surface. And since only a certain percentage of such acts receive media coverage, the drumbeat of what is being reported definitely qualifies as startling.
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Re: the violence of white collar crime

Postby admin » Fri Jan 30, 2009 11:36 am

When a family's financial despair turns deadly
As the economic downturn deepens, some individuals are resorting to murder-suicide to escape job loss, foreclosure and bankruptcy
January 30, 2009
It is a grim indicator of the depth of despair the economic downturn has wrought: a rare spate of murder-suicides in which entire families have been killed by desperate parents suffocating beneath hopelessness and debt.

This week alone, the United States witnessed the gruesome demise of two more households in which an executive decision was made to give up on fighting against the depressing cycle of foreclosures, bankruptcies, evictions and layoffs.

In suburban Ohio, a 51-year-old father with employment struggles shot to death his wife and two young children before turning the gun on himself.

In California, a pair of middle-class medical technicians, already behind on their house payments, were fired from their jobs for allegedly low-balling their income to qualify for cheaper child care. On Tuesday, the husband killed his two sets of twins, a fifth child and his wife before faxing a letter to a TV station linking his job loss to the killing rampage, then taking his own life.

Two similar cases over the past three months in California have been attributed to job losses and financial stress.

Canada has not been exempt.

On New Year's Day, a couple in Chicoutimi, Que., struggling with bankruptcy, joblessness and bleak financial prospects, allegedly plotted a family suicide that left the 46-year-old father, and three children, ages 12, 7 and 4, dead. The mother, 34-year-old Cathy Gauthier-Lachance survived; she is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and assisting the suicide of her husband.

In Toronto, a father under pressure to meet increasing health-care bills for two ailing kin snapped in November, a day after a steep stock market drop. He killed himself, his wife and two grown children.

While researchers have long pointed to a connection between financial hardship and the onset of mental disorders, mental health experts are concerned that a new trend in extreme familicide - in which entire families sometimes lose their lives - may be emerging, with strong ties to the economic meltdown.

"When we look back at the end of 2009, I would be surprised if we did not see an increase. All the fundamentals are there," said John Bradford, associate chief of forensic psychiatry with the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group and a professor of psychiatry and criminology at the University of Ottawa and Queen's University.

By fundamentals, Dr. Bradford means "the bleak economic news, people losing their jobs, losing their homes, having nothing to look forward to."

The feelings of failure, insecurity, guilt and shame that accompany the items on that list often lead to stress, which in turn leads to depression, even in people with no history of mental disorder. For some people, Dr. Bradford said, financial pressures can transform depression into a form of desperation that can lead to suicide.

However, only among a rare few do suicidal thoughts morph into the nihilistic delusion, that an entire family should be killed.

"You basically have this delusional idea that somehow the world is coming to an end, there is great suffering, there is nothing we can do about it," said David Bloom, director of psychotic disorders at Montreal's Douglas Mental Health University Institute. "The best thing to do is leave the world and take those you love the most with you to avoid further suffering on their part."

Dr. Bloom said that males more often exhibit the nihilistic delusions that push them over the psychotic edge, although rarely are the murders committed out of anger. "It's a hopelessness," he said. "I have no more means with which to fight this problem. The only solution is suicide. They wouldn't even see it as murder. They would take it as 'I'm saving them from a terrible thing.' "

As for what triggers "the switch" that enables psychotic behaviour, that is more difficult to pinpoint. The key problem is that in most cases, the only people who know the answer are dead.

Typically though, psychotic episodes are instigated by "some cataclysmic change in personal circumstances," said Scott Weich, a professor of psychiatry at Warwick Medical School in Britain. In a study of 7,726 subjects, Dr. Weich found financial strain to be a major cause of the onset of mental illness, which he said can affect people at any income level.

"Across the population, I think we can expect to see an increase in rates of mental illness as people's financial circumstances are worsening," he said. "It's inevitable."

In communities in Southern Ontario where layoffs are pending as a result of plant closings, including in small-town Listowel, where a Campbell's Soup factory is closing after 50 years, human-resources departments have beefed up access to stress councillors and group therapy to help employees deal with the despair.

"The priority is ... supporting each other through a difficult time," said Jacki Nelson, a spokeswoman for Campbell's.


By their own hand

Tales of traders tossing themselves in droves from office towers during the Black Monday market crash of 1929 have largely been proven to be an urban myth, but a number of people in the upper echelons of the business world have turned to suicide during the current financial crisis.

Adolf Merckle: The German industrialist was the 94th richest person in the world in 2008, with a net worth of about $9.2-billion (U.S.). But his investment decisions concerning Volkswagen shares pushed his business empire to the brink of disaster, and he jumped in front of a train this month at age 74.

Steven Good: The Chicago real-estate executive shot himself in the head while sitting in his Jaguar earlier this month. He'd worried publicly over the challenging market.

Kirk Stephenson: The 47-year-old chief operating officer at a London private-equity firm threw himself in front of a train in September. Colleagues speculated that market troubles contributed to his decision to end his life.

René-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet: The French aristocrat slashed his wrists after he lost more than $1-billion of his clients' money, including much, if not all, of his own family's fortune, in Bernard Madoff's $50-billion (U.S.) alleged Ponzi scheme.

Marcus Schrenker: Medical personnel saved the Indiana money manager after he was found this month with his wrists slit in a Florida campground. He had tried to fake his death by parachuting out of a plane and fleeing on a motorcycle.

Barry Fox: The former analyst at Bear Stearns threw himself out of the window of his 29th-storey New Jersey apartment in May after being told he was one of several thousand people who would be out of work as the company collapsed.

Eric Von der Porten: The managing partner at Leeward Investments, a small hedge fund in Northern California, suffocated himself in December after suffering market losses.

Bruce J. Colburn: The newly unemployed business executive from Pennsylvania went to Glacier National Park in Montana and shot himself in the chest.

Sources: NYT, Guardian, AP, Reuters, AFP
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Re: the violence of white collar crime

Postby admin » Sat Jan 17, 2009 9:50 pm ... adoff.aspx
Scott Burns' Articles -- Recent and ArchivedMeasuring Madoff
By Scott Burns
Media accounts immediately labeled the disappearance of $50 billion, masterminded by Bernard Madoff, as "the largest fraud in history." It is a greater wealth loss than having a household name company -- such as Walt Disney, Anheuser-Busch or Boeing -- vanish without a trace.

The loss is mind-boggling. But the figure does nothing to convey the damage this man has done.

One way to measure the extent of the damage is to compare the $50 billion to measures of loss in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports. In 2007 there were 9.8 million crimes against property in the United States. This included about 2.2 million burglaries, 6.6 million larceny-thefts and 1.1 million car thefts.

I think you'll agree that 9.8 million crimes represent a veritable army of miscreants. In spite of that, our total losses to property crimes in 2007 were a mere $17.6 billion. To be sure, it didn't feel "mere" if you suffered a burglary. The average loss was $1,991. Nor was it "mere" if you were one of the 6.6 million people who suffered a larceny-theft. In those, the average loss was $886.

But when you add all the losses in 9.8 million common property crimes, it's just a fraction of the estimated $50 billion loss attributed to Bernard Madoff.

Perhaps 2007 was an "off" year for theft?

Well, there was a slight decline in the number of crimes, but not in the amount lost. In 2006 the report shows nearly 10 million crimes against property and losses of another $17.6 billion. Similarly, the 2005 report shows nearly 10.2 million crimes against property and a total loss of $16.5 billion.

Add the three years and you get $51.7 billion. Using that value, Bernard Madoff has caused losses equal to all the losses caused by all the conventional thieves in America for nearly three full years.

We get a different perspective by reading the annual report of the Securities and Exchange Commission. That's the federal agency charged with protecting investors. In the listing of "enforcement milestones," the 2008 report proudly notes that it had "obtained orders in SEC judicial and administrative proceedings requiring securities violators to disgorge illegal profits of approximately $774 million and to pay penalties of approximately $256 million."

In other words, the total recovery of the entire agency, in a full year, was about 2 percent of what Bernard Madoff -- the guy they didn't notice -- made disappear.

This leaves us with two really big questions.

First: What can be done to keep America from becoming a Coffee Can Economy?

I'm serious. Right now all we know is that nothing is trustworthy. Not our political leaders. Not our business leaders. Not the government or private institutions that are supposed to provide oversight and evaluation.

Can anyone, from any of these institutions, give us any reason not to keep what savings we have buried in a coffee can rather than entrusted to the institutions that have destroyed the most fundamental element of commerce -- trust?

The answer is a flat "No."

Second: In the matter of Bernard Madoff, how can the punishment possibly be fit to the crime?

To me, this begs for a punishment that is both cruel and unusual.

Does life without parole in a gentleman's federal prison cut it? I don't think so. Does life without parole in a facility devoted to violent petty criminals sound better? Yes, but the improvement is slight.

In medieval times a man who committed murder or treason could be declared an outlaw. This literally meant he was outside the law, no longer protected by the laws of his society. His property was forfeit. No one was allowed to provide him with food, shelter or aid. And anyone who found him could kill him.

When you look at the damage done, this wouldn't be a cruel or unusual punishment. It fits the crime. It's what we need for white collar financial criminals.

If you think I'm in a rage about this, you're right.

But I bet you are too. ... adoff.aspx
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Re: the violence of white collar crime

Postby admin » Sat Jan 17, 2009 9:49 pm

Bernard Madoff and the Full-Time Equivalent of Murder
By Scott Burns
Roy Bean, the famous “hanging judge” of Texas, would be disappointed.

Most of the 3,000 readers who wrote in response to my recent column said that hanging is too good for Bernard Madoff. The same column asked readers to suggest the appropriate punishment for a crime so large.

Madoff is the alleged mastermind of a $50 billion fraud, a Ponzi scheme that left thousands of investors and many charitable foundations penniless. The dollar value of the crime is equal to three full years of all crimes against property in America--- every larceny, burglary, and auto theft. That’s about 30 million common crimes.

It boggles the mind.

Here is what I’ve been able to distill from the 3,000 reader notes.

We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore. I simply can’t print some of the suggested punishments. They are too violent. Imprisonment at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib was mentioned frequently.

I believe we’re at the beginning of something as powerful as the civil rights movement or the protests against the Vietnam War. The difference is that this public anger is far broader. Unlike the civil rights movement or protests against the war in Vietnam, this anger is harder to funnel into programmatic goals or civil action.

But Bernard Madoff is the $50 billion last straw. Hundreds of readers made leaps of association to corporate white collar crimes, such as Enron and WorldCom. Or to colossal institutional influence such as that wielded by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Or to anger against executives being rewarded with multimillion-dollar payments even as their firms collapsed. Or to political ineptitude and corruption. Several politicians were mentioned more than once. Congressman Barney Frank may be the next Dan Rostenkowski. ( Former Congressman Rostenkowski, head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was surrounded, heckled and nearly attacked by outraged senior citizens in 1989.)

Many readers made the leap from a criminal Ponzi scheme to the equivalent by government. Reader B.E. suggested that Congress easily topped the $50 billion fraud, and did it annually, by putting IOUs in the Social Security Trust fund and spending the surplus employment tax receipts.

Enforced poverty may be the new punishment. Few readers felt that conventional white collar imprisonment was appropriate for a crime this large. One pointed out that Jeffrey Skilling’s sentence for Enron was nothing compared to the damage done to thousands of workers’ lives. People are looking for something tougher and more visceral.

Many suggested that Mr. Madoff and every member of his family be stripped of all wealth. Beyond that, many suggested that Mr. Madoff be forced to live with, and serve, the poorest people in our society. Reader L.B., for instance, wrote that white collar criminals should be forced to learn what real poverty means. She suggested cleaning toilets at a homeless shelter, for life.

We may soon have a financial “equivalency” for murder. People feel it isn’t right that a man can get 5 or 10 years in prison for robbing a 7-Eleven when a white collar crime can be more devastating to more people, but get a lighter sentence. As reader G.C. wrote: “You can kill someone in one of three ways: physically, emotionally or financially. But only one is punishable by death.”

We’ll be a long time figuring out the equivalences, of course, but if employers can talk in terms of “full-time equivalents” for jobs, it isn’t far-fetched to imagine that modern white collar crime may soon be seen as a new form of mass murder.

Some readers will think this is an extreme statement, so let me explain. The highest figure I could find for the value of a human life was the amounts paid out to families that suffered a loss from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to a 2004 study by the RAND Corp., the compensation for the average victim was $3.1 million. This is a very large multiple of more common exercises attempting to estimate the value of a human life. Yet even using this gigantic figure, the $50 billion fraud is the financial equivalent of destroying 16,100 lives.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the death penalty. As I wrote a few years ago, I think we need to buy Devil’s Island from the French and let our big cons try to survive in an island society of their own making.
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Postby admin » Wed Nov 26, 2008 2:56 pm

"All workplace bullying is institutionalized abuse,"
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Postby admin » Sat Nov 15, 2008 12:30 pm

I look at the following article as a sad indicator of things to come perhaps, and another indicator of the unique violence of white collar crime. What are the results when sick white collar people ruin our economy while trying to put as much money as possible in their pockets?
Japan's markets and economy has been in trouble since it crashed nearly two decades ago, after experiencing a boom similar to ours.

see below:

Poverty, Pension Fears Drive Japan's Elderly Citizens to Crime
By Stuart Biggs and Sachiko Sakamaki

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- More senior citizens are picking pockets and shoplifting in Japan to cope with cuts in government welfare spending and rising health-care costs in a fast-ageing society.

Criminal offences by people 65 or older doubled to 48,605 in the five years to 2008, the most since police began compiling national statistics in 1978, a Ministry of Justice report said.

Theft is the most common crime of senior citizens, many of whom face declining health, low incomes and a sense of isolation, the report said. Elderly crime may increase in parallel with poverty rates as Japan enters another recession and the budget deficit makes it harder for the government to provide a safety net for people on the fringes of society.

``The elderly are turning to shoplifting as an increasing number of them lack assets and children to depend on,'' Masahiro Yamada, a sociology professor at Chuo University in Tokyo and an author of books on income disparity in Japan, said in an interview yesterday. ``We won't see the decline of elderly crimes as long as the income gap continues to rise.''

Crime rates among the elderly are rising as the overall rate for Japan has fallen for five consecutive years after peaking in 2002. Over 60s accounted for 18.9 percent of all crimes last year compared with 3.1 percent in 1978, with shoplifting accounting for 80 percent of the total, the report said.

The trend has captivated Japan's media, which include regular accounts of the latest thief or pickpocket as well as undercover footage of people shoplifting food in convenience stores and supermarkets.


Coverage intensified after a 79-year-old woman slashed two women with a knife near a Tokyo railway station in August. She wanted police to take care of her after she ran away from a shelter for the homeless, Kyodo English News reported at the time.

``Elderly crime is a serious problem that our society must shoulder in the years to come,'' the government report said. ``With baby boomers becoming elderly within five years, we have reached a state where we must make a fundamental review of anti- crime measures in a fast-ageing society.''

About a fifth of Japanese are 65 or older, almost twice the proportion in the U.S. and three times China's rate. That figure will double to more than 40 percent by 2050, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. There will be twice as many elderly Japanese as there are children within five years.


The government aims to cut 220 billion yen ($2.3 billion) from social welfare spending in each of the five years starting 2006 as it seeks to balance the budget by 2011. As part of this plan, the government introduced a new health insurance system that would raise premiums for some elderly patients.

The initiative has stirred anxiety about pensions and health care, and Japan's economic situation is doing little to help.

Industrial production tumbled for a third quarter in September as retail sales dropped for the first time in 14 months and household spending fell for a seventh month. Japan's economy is at risk of deteriorating further as the global financial turmoil slows growth worldwide, Bank of Japan board member Seiji Nakamura said yesterday.

The number of households on welfare reached 1.1 million last year, an increase of 300,000 since 2001, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Japan ranks behind the U.S. at fourth-worst among 30 developed countries in terms of the number of people living on less than half the country's median income, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last month.

``Some elderly, particularly men who lost their wives, even turn to crimes to be put in jail so they can be fed three times a day,'' Yamada said.

Still, Japan's weakening economy is not the only cause of elderly crime, Yamada said. The current generation of seniors grew up in the confusion of the aftermath of World War II, when crime rates in Japan were at their highest, he said.

``They don't feel guilty because they were the generation who recorded the highest youth crime rates when they were young.''

To contact the reporters on this story: Stuart Biggs in Tokyo at; Sachiko Sakamaki in Tokyo at

Last Updated: November 13, 2008 21:02 EST
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Postby admin » Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:27 pm

Beyond books like, THE LUCIFER EFFECT, MAKING A KILLING, THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR, SNAKES IN SUITS I am finding a fascinating social studies experiment in how and why good people do evil things and why good people stand by and allow it to happen.

Here is another slant:

From THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR, by Martha Stout, PHd, we learn that approximately 4% of the overall population carries an invisible and secret advantage over the rest of us. The sickness of being a sociopath, whereby they have no social limitations on their behavior, no anxiety whatsoever about doing tremendous damage to fellow humans for their own benefit. That is one in twenty five persons you meet each day.

Within my financial service industry, I estimated (in the retail sales, or brokerage industry) that the number rose to over ten percent, because of the attraction of the money buiness to sociopaths.

That meant, that in my experience, one in every ten persons carried this trait. Remember that this is a mostly invisible weapon that they have, whilst maintaining an outward appearance of the nicest, most charming persons you have ever met.

So imagine these people, willing to do anything to anyone, rising to the top of some organizations. (I came from a bank with 60,000 employees, and if the idea of 2400 to 6000 sociopaths in one company does not scare you, nothing will)

These individuals naturally rise to the top. Or should I say deviously?

Now you have 10% of the workforce giving instructions that the other 90% follow. Do they?

Stanly Milgram did some famous electrical shock experiments at Yale in the 1960's. In these he had subjects admnister phony electrical shocks (which they did not know were phony) to people in a memory test. It was shown by the Milgram experiments that 66% of us (yes, you) will blindly follow authority, when it appears that the decisions come from above them. It seems they can (we can) absolve ourselves by saying, "we were only following orders". Anyone else remember Nazi war crimes?

So now we have 10% sociopaths running the show for personal gain, assisted by 66% of the workforce who will pretty much do and say whatever they are told. 76% offside before we go deeper.

Put a number on how many employees simply do not care. About anything. Too old, too jaded, too beat up, whatever, they just could not care less. You know who I am talking about. I put that number at 10% because it is easier for me to add.

Then put a number on those persons who do not know any better, like the rookie you hired last week, or the cute little 20 year old junior assistant, trying to find the coffee room. How many years will it be before that person knows enough to even know what they do not know.

Now we are up to 96% of a possible organization that might be none the wiser, or none the carer, if the organization were hurting or even killing others.

Pick a number of addicted, drug or alcohol (or other) dependant employees who might never realize what is going on.

That leaves a very small number of misfits, non-team players, original thinkers, rabble rousers, grumblers, malcontents, whatever, to be the conscience of some organizations. You also know who you are.

You might be the heros that save the world. These numbers are hypothetical of course. Not scientific. They start out scientific and they they turn into my own thinking, which I have noticed can be a little off from time to time.

But plug in your own estimates, and it still becomes scary because of the first two categories. The number of sociopaths (or psychopaths, you pick em) plus the Stanley Milgram percentages from Yale. They go along way (for me) in explaining every form of institutionalized crime I have ever tried to understand, and they pretty well tell me everything I need to know about the current financial crisis.
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What is Institutionalized Crime?

Postby admin » Wed Nov 12, 2008 8:38 pm

Some random thoughts on he new (new to me) topic of institutionalized crime. (could also simply be institutionalized bullying, or institutionalized abuse)
What in the world is institutionalized crime and why should I care?

It is a government telling you that you are going to war over weapons of mass destruction.
It cannot be policed.

It is the Nazi party and what they eventually did to fellow humans.
It sometimes cannot be stopped.

It is a chemical company polluting rivers and streams with chemical waste.
It is difficult to prosecute.

It is pharmaceutical companies selling and promoting drugs that they hide the negative effects of.
Its victims may never be made whole.

It is the Ford employees who knew and supported makrketing of an exploding Pinto, knowing the legal costs would be cheaper than the cost of production changes.

It is your banker or investment dealer saying "trust me", while they abuse that trust to line their pockets.
You may never learn or even understand the abuse.

It is the "___________ association" (insert investment dealers, legal, medical, police, whatever) who you approach for help when you have been abused, and they side with their members, and protect their members, even when they know that wrongs or crimes were involved. (This way you get abused twice. Once by the original crime, and a second time by the "association" designed to protect its members and not the public.)

It is the RCMP, FBI, or whichever agency you choose, crossing over the line on terrorism, tourture, political activities, money laundering of Adscam funds, etc.
We have no recourse against this.

It is the Catholic Church abusing, and then hiding their knowledge of the abuse.

It is everywhere. Your city hall. The local airport authority. The corporations you deal with every day. It is too big to stop, to complicated to police, and damages peoples lives.

Institutionalized crime can be committed by any agency, government, corporation, church, or institution, and because of the size, strength and power of the organization, they usually get away with it. Also assisting this free license to hurt or steal is a justice system that does not recognize, understand or prosecute such high level institutions.

At it's lowest level, it may just involve, abuse, bullying, threats, intimidation, harassement at work or elsewhere. At it's worst it is criminal and involves life and death.

I imagine that by putting this name to it, I have not invented anything new or that was unknown before, but hey, I feel better to finally understand why some of the things that happen in our world, happen without recourse.

If you doubt this theory of institutionalized crime, please read and digest the book, "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil" by Philip Zimbardo.
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Postby admin » Wed Nov 12, 2008 4:51 pm
Twenty Things You Should Know About Corporate Crime
By Russell Mokhiber, AlterNet. Posted June 16, 2007.

Did you know that corporate crime inflicts far more damage on society than all street crime combined? This and 19 more amazing facts about the state of corporations in America. Tools
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The following is text from a speech delivered by Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter to the Taming the Giant Corporation conference in Washington, D.C., June 9, 2007.

20. Corporate crime inflicts far more damage on society than all street crime combined.

Whether in bodies or injuries or dollars lost, corporate crime and violence wins by a landslide.

The FBI estimates, for example, that burglary and robbery -- street crimes -- costs the nation $3.8 billion a year.

The losses from a handful of major corporate frauds -- Tyco, Adelphia, Worldcom, Enron -- swamp the losses from all street robberies and burglaries combined.

Health care fraud alone costs Americans $100 billion to $400 billion a year.

The savings and loan fraud -- which former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called "the biggest white collar swindle in history" -- cost us anywhere from $300 billion to $500 billion.

And then you have your lesser frauds: auto repair fraud, $40 billion a year, securities fraud, $15 billion a year -- and on down the list.

19. Corporate crime is often violent crime.

Recite this list of corporate frauds and people will immediately say to you: but you can’t compare street crime and corporate crime -- corporate crime is not violent crime.

Not true.

Corporate crime is often violent crime.

The FBI estimates that, 16,000 Americans are murdered every year.

Compare this to the 56,000 Americans who die every year on the job or from occupational diseases such as black lung and asbestosis and the tens of thousands of other Americans who fall victim to the silent violence of pollution, contaminated foods, hazardous consumer products, and hospital malpractice.

These deaths are often the result of criminal recklessness. Yet, they are rarely prosecuted as homicides or as criminal violations of federal laws.

18. Corporate criminals are the only criminal class in the United States that have the power to define the laws under which they live.

The mafia, no.

The gangstas, no.

The street thugs, no.

But the corporate criminal lobby, yes. They have marinated Washington -- from the White House to the Congress to K Street -- with their largesse. And out the other end come the laws they can live with. They still violate their own rules with impunity. But they make sure the laws are kept within reasonable bounds.

Exhibit A -- the automobile industry.

Over the past 30 years, the industry has worked its will on Congress to block legislation that would impose criminal sanctions on knowing and willful violations of the federal auto safety laws. Today, with very narrow exceptions, if an auto company is caught violating the law, only a civil fine is imposed.

17. Corporate crime is underprosecuted by a factor of say -- 100. And the flip side of that -- corporate crime prosecutors are underfunded by a factor of say -- 100.

Big companies that are criminally prosecuted represent only the tip of a very large iceberg of corporate wrongdoing.

For every company convicted of health care fraud, there are hundreds of others who get away with ripping off Medicare and Medicaid, or face only mild slap-on-the-wrist fines and civil penalties when caught.

For every company convicted of polluting the nation’s waterways, there are many others who are not prosecuted because their corporate defense lawyers are able to offer up a low-level employee to go to jail in exchange for a promise from prosecutors not to touch the company or high-level executives.

For every corporation convicted of bribery or of giving money directly to a public official in violation of federal law, there are thousands who give money legally through political action committees to candidates and political parties. They profit from a system that effectively has legalized bribery.

For every corporation convicted of selling illegal pesticides, there are hundreds more who are not prosecuted because their lobbyists have worked their way in Washington to ensure that dangerous pesticides remain legal.

For every corporation convicted of reckless homicide in the death of a worker, there are hundreds of others that don’t even get investigated for reckless homicide when a worker is killed on the job. Only a few district attorneys across the country have historically investigated workplace deaths as homicides.

White collar crime defense attorneys regularly admit that if more prosecutors had more resources, the number of corporate crime prosecutions would increase dramatically. A large number of serious corporate and white collar crime cases are now left on the table for lack of resources.

16. Beware of consumer groups or other public interest groups who make nice with corporations.

There are now probably more fake public interest groups than actual ones in America today. And many formerly legitimate public interest groups have been taken over or compromised by big corporations. Our favorite example is the National Consumer League. It’s the oldest consumer group in the country. It was created to eradicate child labor.

But in the last ten years or so, it has been taken over by large corporations. It now gets the majority of its budget from big corporations such as Pfizer, Bank of America, Pharmacia & Upjohn, Kaiser Permanente, Wyeth-Ayerst, and Verizon.

15. It used to be when a corporation committed a crime, they pled guilty to a crime.

So, for example, so many large corporations were pleading guilty to crimes in the 1990s, that in 2000, we put out a report titled The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s. We went back through all of the Corporate Crime Reporters for that decade, pulled out all of the big corporations that had been convicted, ranked the corporate criminals by the amount of their criminal fines, and cut it off at 100.

So, you have your Fortune 500, your Forbes 400, and your Corporate Crime Reporter 100.

14. Now, corporate criminals don’t have to worry about pleading guilty to crimes.

Three new loopholes have developed over the past five years -- the deferred prosecution agreement, the non prosecution agreement, and pleading guilty a closet entity or a defunct entity that has nothing to lose.

13. Corporations love deferred prosecution agreements.

In the 1990s, if prosecutors had evidence of a crime, they would bring a criminal charge against the corporation and sometimes against the individual executives. And the company would end up pleading guilty.

Then, about three years ago, the Justice Department said -- hey, there is this thing called a deferred prosecution agreement.

We can bring a criminal charge against the company. And we will tell the company -- if you are a good company and do not violate the law for the next two years, we will drop the charges. No harm, no foul. This is called a deferred prosecution agreement.

And most major corporate crime prosecutions are brought this way now. The company pays a fine. The company is charged with a crime. But there is no conviction. And after two or three years, depending on the term of the agreement, the charges are dropped.

12. Corporations love non prosecution agreements even more.

One Friday evening last July, I was sitting my office in the National Press Building. And into my e-mail box came a press release from the Justice Department.

The press release announced that Boeing will pay a $50 million criminal penalty and $615 million in civil penalties to resolve federal claims relating to the company’s hiring of the former Air Force acquisitions chief Darleen A. Druyun, by its then CFO, Michael Sears -- and stealing sensitive procurement information.

So, the company pays a criminal penalty. And I figure, okay if they paid a criminal penalty, they must have pled guilty.

No, they did not plead guilty.

Okay, they must have been charged with a crime and had the prosecution deferred.

No, they were not charged with a crime and did not have the prosecution deferred.

About a week later, after pounding the Justice Department for an answer as to what happened to Boeing, they sent over something called a non prosecution agreement.

That is where the Justice Department says -- we’re going to fine you criminally, but hey, we don’t want to cost you any government business, so sign this agreement. It says we won’t prosecute you if you pay the fine and change your ways.

Corporate criminals love non prosecution agreements. No criminal charge. No criminal record. No guilty plea. Just pay the fine and leave.

11. In health fraud cases, find an empty closet or defunct entity to plead guilty.

The government has a mandatory exclusion rule for health care corporations that are convicted of ripping off Medicare.

Such an exclusion is the equivalent of the death penalty. If a major drug company can’t do business with Medicare, it loses a big chunk of its business. There have been many criminal prosecutions of major health care corporations for ripping off Medicare. And many of these companies have pled guilty. But not one major health care company has been excluded from Medicare.

Why not?

Because when you read in the newspaper that a major health care company pled guilty, it’s not the parent company that pleads guilty. The prosecutor will allow a unit of the corporation that has no assets -- or even a defunct entity -- to plead guilty. And therefore that unit will be excluded from Medicare -- which doesn’t bother the parent corporation, because the unit had no business with Medicare to begin with.

Earlier, Dr. Sidney Wolfe was here and talked about the criminal prosecution of Purdue Pharma, the Stamford, Connecticut-based maker of OxyContin.

Dr. Wolfe said that the company pled guilty to pushing OxyContin by making claims that it is less addictive and less subject to abuse than other pain medications and that it continued to do so despite warnings to the contrary from doctors, the media, and members of its own sales force.

Well, Purdue Pharma -- the company that makes and markets the drug -- didn’t plead guilty. A different company -- Purdue Frederick pled guilty. Purdue Pharma actually got a non-prosecution agreement. Purdue Frederick had nothing to lose, so it pled guilty.

10. Corporate criminals don’t like to be put on probation.

Very rarely, a corporation convicted of a crime will be placed on probation. Many years ago, Consolidated Edison in New York was convicted of an environmental crime. A probation official was assigned. Employees would call him with wrongdoing. He would write reports for the judge. The company changed its ways. There was actual change within the corporation.

Corporations hate this. They hate being under the supervision of some public official, like a judge.

We need more corporate probation.

9. Corporate criminals don’t like to be charged with homicide.

Street murders occur every day in America. And they are prosecuted every day in America. Corporate homicides occur every day in America. But they are rarely prosecuted.

The last homicide prosecution brought against a major American corporation was in 1980, when a Republican Indiana prosecutor charged Ford Motor Co. with homicide for the deaths of three teenaged girls who died when their Ford Pinto caught on fire after being rear-ended in northern Indiana.

The prosecutor alleged that Ford knew that it was marketing a defective product, with a gas tank that crushed when rear ended, spilling fuel.

In the Indiana case, the girls were incinerated to death.

But Ford brought in a hot shot criminal defense lawyer who in turn hired the best friend of the judge as local counsel, and who, as a result, secured a not guilty verdict after persuading the judge to keep key evidence out of the jury room.

It’s time to crank up the corporate homicide prosecutions.

8. There are very few career prosecutors of corporate crime.

Patrick Fitzgerald is one that comes to mind. He’s the U.S. Attorney in Chicago. He put away Scooter Libby. And he’s now prosecuting the Canadian media baron Conrad Black.

7. Most corporate crime prosecutors see their jobs as a stepping stone to greater things.

Spitzer and Giuliani prosecuted corporate crime as a way to move up the political ladder. But most young prosecutors prosecute corporate crime to move into the lucrative corporate crime defense bar.

6. Most corporate criminals turn themselves into the authorities.

The vast majority of corporate criminal prosecutions are now driven by the corporations themselves. If they find something wrong, they know they can trust the prosecutor to do the right thing. They will be forced to pay a fine, maybe agree to make some internal changes.

But in this day and age, in all likelihood, they will not be forced to plead guilty.

So, better to be up front with the prosecutor and put the matter behind them. To save the hide of the corporation, they will cooperate with federal prosecutors against individual executives within the company. Individuals will be charged, the corporation will not.

5. The market doesn’t take most modern corporate criminal prosecutions seriously.

Almost universally, when a corporate crime case is settled, the stock of the company involved goes up.

Why? Because a cloud has been cleared and there is no serious consequence to the company. No structural changes in how the company does business. No monitor. No probation. Preserving corporate reputation is the name of the game.

4. The Justice Department needs to start publishing an annual Corporate Crime in the United States report.

Every year, the Justice Department puts out an annual report titled "Crime in the United States."

But by "Crime in the United States," the Justice Department means "street crime in the United States."

In the "Crime in the United States" annual report, you can read about burglary, robbery and theft.

There is little or nothing about price-fixing, corporate fraud, pollution, or public corruption.

A yearly Justice Department report on Corporate Crime in the United States is long overdue.

3. We must start asking -- which side are you on -- with the corporate criminals or against?

Most professionals in Washington work for, are paid by, or are under the control of the corporate crime lobby. Young lawyers come to town, fresh out of law school, 25 years old, and their starting salary is $160,000 a year. And they’re working for the corporate criminals.

Young lawyers graduating from the top law schools have all kinds of excuses for working for the corporate criminals -- huge debt, just going to stay a couple of years for the experience.

But the reality is, they are working for the corporate criminals.

What kind of respect should we give them? Especially since they have many options other than working for the corporate criminals.

Time to dust off that age-old question -- which side are you on? (For young lawyers out there considering other options, check out Alan Morrison’s new book, Beyond the Big Firm: Profiles of Lawyers Who Want Something More.)

2. We need a 911 number for the American people to dial to report corporate crime and violence.

If you want to report street crime and violence, call 911.

But what number do you call if you want to report corporate crime and violence?

We propose 611.

Call 611 to report corporate crime and violence.

We need a national number where people can pick up the phone and report the corporate criminals in our midst.

What triggered this thought?

We attended the press conference at the Justice Department the other day announcing the indictment of Congressman William Jefferson (D-Louisiana).

Jefferson was the first U.S. official charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Federal officials alleged that Jefferson was both on the giving and receiving ends of bribe payments.

On the receiving end, he took $100,000 in cash -- $90,000 of it was stuffed into his freezer in Washington, D.C.

The $90,000 was separated in $10,000 increments, wrapped in aluminum foil, and concealed inside various frozen food containers.

At the press conference announcing the indictment, after various federal officials made their case before the cameras, up to the mike came Joe Persichini, assistant director of the Washington field office of the FBI.

"To the American people, I ask you, take time," Persichini said. "Read this charging document line by line, scheme by scheme, count by count. This case is about greed, power and arrogance."

"Everyone is entitled to honest and ethical public service," Persichini continued. "We as leaders standing here today cannot do it alone. We need the public’s help. The amount of corruption is dependent on what the public with allow.

Again, the amount of corruption is dependent on what the public will allow."

“"f you have knowledge of, if you’ve been confronted with or you are participating, I ask that you contact your local FBI office or you call the Washington Field Office of the FBI at 202.278.2000. Thank you very much."

Shorten the number -- make it 611.

1. And the number one thing you should know about corporate crime?

Everyone is deserving of justice. So, question, debate, strategize, yes.

But if God-forbid you too are victimized by a corporate criminal, you too will demand justice.

We need a more beefed up, more effective justice system to deal with the corporate criminals in our midst.
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Postby admin » Thu Nov 06, 2008 9:37 pm

November 7, 2008
Losses Mount, Fears Overwhelm, and a Life-Ending Decision Is Made

Walter Buczynski was a top executive at a Maryland mortgage lender before he killed his wife and jumped off a bridge this January.

K. Upender was a distraught stock speculator in India who suffered steep losses in the Indian stock market this fall, according to the police, just before he chose to open the gas line in his house, light a match and kill himself, his wife and his 2-year-old son.

Mr. Buczynski, 59, who lived in an affluent suburb in New Jersey and made close to $330,000 in 2007, and Mr. Upender, a 32-year-old former stock broker who had taken to trading stocks out of his home in Hyderabad, a fast-growing city in central India, were worlds apart.

What they had in common was a livelihood in the financial industry, a wrenching downturn in that industry and death by their own hands.

The reason for a suicide, particularly one that also involves homicide, is never cut and dried. Mr. Buczynski, for example, left a note saying that problems with his marriage caused him to kill himself and his wife.

Although there are no hard statistics yet to show an increase in suicides related to the financial crisis, anecdotal reports are coming from around the globe.

As markets continue to tumble worldwide, with the prospect of a deep global recession to follow, some experts predict suicide could increase as those who once enjoyed the fruits of a global asset boom watch their fortunes evaporate in the broadest and most abrupt destruction of wealth since the great crash of 1929.

Suicide reports have come from a wide variety of places, involving a diverse range of people. A chief executive of an Arizona-based commercial lender wore a tuxedo, swallowed pills and lay down to die in June as his company collapsed. A suburban stock broker in Connecticut jumped from an 11th-story window in July; a private equity financier based in London leapt in front of a train in August.

And last month, a onetime dot-com millionaire shot five family members and himself in an upscale neighborhood in Los Angeles, blaming the financial crisis for his woes.

Those deaths are the most extreme manifestations of a wider mental health challenge presented by the economic malaise.

“The majority of the calls I am getting now are from people overly stressed over their finances,” said Daniel J. Reidenberg, a psychologist and the executive director of SAVE, a Minneapolis-based suicide prevention organization. “And I have talked to business executives as well as people who have just lost their jobs. The severity of the credit crunch is causing people to engage in more extreme behavior.”

While stories of financial executives jumping from tall buildings on Wall Street during the 1929 crash have long been part of the popular lore, experts and academics say there were only a few instances of such behavior as the market plunged.

Most of that era’s suicides came in the years after the crash as the Great Depression gathered steam.

“My research showed that a lot of people committed suicide in the privacy of their own homes as their fortunes and reputations were depleted,” said Selwyn Parker, the author of “The Great Crash.” “It happened all over the world — in New York, the bushes of Australia, Germany and Austria.”

In fact, the highest suicide rate recorded in the United States was 17 out of 100,000 people in 1932, when unemployment peaked at 25 percent.

That compares with 11 out of 100,000 people in 2005, the most recent year for which data is available. The reported total in 2005 was 32,637.

it would seem that more finance-related suicides stem from people losing their homes in foreclosures.
However, the smaller cluster of executives who have taken their lives suggests that the global collapse of asset values has been enough to persuade some people of means and high position that their lives were without hope.
Steven Stack, a leading researcher of suicide trends at Wayne State University, said that Emile Durkheim, the French sociologist, reached a conclusion more than 100 years ago that holds true today.

“His argument was that those who are the highest suicide risk are those with the greatest fortunes who lose the most and have the furthest to fall,” Mr. Stack said.

Scott Coles, the 48-year-old chief executive of Mortgages Inc., an aggressive lender to some of Arizona’s largest commercial development projects, experienced that kind of precipitous downturn.

He became a multimillionaire by signing off on large commercial loans that were financed by high-yielding mortgage investments — a business strategy that resulted in the collapse of his company and of his prominent reputation.

The police ruled his death in June a suicide, and his company filed for bankruptcy later that month.

At 82, Edwin Rachleff was nearing the end of his long career as a broker, most recently running A. G. Edwards’s New London branch in Connecticut. He was a pillar of his local community and had been married to his wife of 60 years.

But on July 28, one of his main clients, the $12 million New London Security Federal Credit Union, was declared insolvent by regulators and shut down. That day, he leapt to his death from the 11th floor of a building.

Investigators are examining his ties to the defunct credit union.

Mr. Rachleff left no note, but he was said to be upset over his worsening eyesight and the possibility that he might lose his broker’s license.

When Kirk Stephenson, 47, jumped in front of the morning commuter train that would have taken him from his country home to his office in London, he left no note either.

Friends and family were in shock, as there were no evident signs of distress from Mr. Stephenson, who was married and had an 8-year-old son.

While no public explanation has been given, his death came in late September, as Olivant, the small investment company where he worked as chief operating officer, was confronted with the news that substantial assets it held at Lehman Brothers would not be recovered anytime soon because of the investment bank’s bankruptcy.

Karthik Rajaram, 45, who had founded an Internet business incubator, was an out-of-work investor living in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood when he fatally shot his three children, wife and mother-in-law before turning the gun on himself in early October. In a letter addressed to the police found at the site of the shootings, Mr. Rajaram blamed economic hardships for his actions.

Although research is scant, Howard Brenner, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, says that at higher income levels, those suffering financial distress will on occasion lash out at those closest to them.

“If these people are not alive,” Mr. Brenner said, “they will not be in a position to rebuke the head of household or suffer further embarrassment.”
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Postby admin » Mon Oct 27, 2008 2:47 pm

from a great site for investor protection
Investor Protection: The violence of white-collar crime
Posted on Wednesday, August 29 @ 00:00:00 EDT by root

“.. Mr. Diekmeyer, 73, says he lost $800,000 - his life's savings - when Bre-X collapsed. He also saw his personal friend and stock broker kill himself in 1997, riddled with guilt about his clients' losses."I survived with great difficulty and a friend of mine committed suicide over it," says Mr. Diekmeyer, who lives in a modest apartment in Beaconsfield, west of Montreal. "I only know this story. I'm fairly certain there are others that are equally disastrous…"

Source: J. McFarland, No winners in this case, Globe and Mail, Aug. 2, 2007

[John Felderhof, the former vice chairman and Chief geologist of Bre-X, the gold company rocked by a scandal that wiped out billions of investor dollars almost 10 years ago, had been accused by the Commission of selling $84 million worth of stock between April and October 1996, while having material information not disclosed to investors. Felderhof was acquitted on July on 8 counts of illegal insider trading and authorizing misleading news releases 7 years after his lengthy trial began. During the trial, the court heard extensive testimony that Felderhof ignored nearly two dozen signs that the amount of gold at Busang, Indonesia was insignificant. The OSC will not appeal the ruling, so in the end no one will be held accountable but small investors pain will continue for decades ]

White-collar crime is a generic term for crimes involving commercial fraud, cheating investors and consumers, insider trading, embezzlement and other forms of dishonest business schemes. The term comes from the perception that these fraudsters wear white shirts and don’t use physical force in effecting their devastating schemes. Someone who mugs a victim on the street by threatening to knife them, and steals $300, might very likely be punished with a more severe sentence than a Bre-X executive who cheats shareholders out of billions of dollars. There is an impression that white-collar crime in Canada is rare. We've all heard of Enron but how often is Nortel cited as an example of thousands of innocent people losing a large share of their life savings? The last few years, thanks to the media, Canadians are now hearing about home grown penny stock scams, Hollinger, YBM Magnex, Atlas Cold Storage (accounting fraud) and of course the infamous mutual fund market timing scandal. Lately, we've all witnessed the tail end of the Bre-X fraud that cost hapless investors $6 billion with no one held accountable.

Many more examples could be cited including the numerous business income trust implosions like FMF, the Portus hedge fund fiasco and the infamous Norbourg funds disaster. About 9,200 investors in mutual funds managed by Quebec based Norbourg Asset Management Ltd lost their money due to management malfeasance Allegedly, $130 million was misappropriated. Retail investor’s lives were turned upside down.

There were huge losses but was violence involved? We’re always hearing that white-collar crime is non-violent, no one is actually hurt-it’s “only” money. Punishments should be minimal; it’s not as if someone was beaten or knifed. Well, we use the term financial assault to describe the unsavoury actions of fraudsters, scam artists, devilish corporate executives, stock promoters and greedy salespersons who knowingly put investors at huge financial and personal risk for economic gain. The toxic combination of financial loss coupled with the corresponding psychological and physiological impact often makes the assault an unbearable experience.

We've become conditioned to reading about the billions of retail investor dollars unduly vaporizing each year in Canada. Unfortunately we’ve also grown accustomed to a lack of enforcement by regulators and the success stories of perpetrators who walk away “Not guilty” Well, we think, at least nobody was killed or required 20 stitches. It is “only “ white-collar crimes. So even if this culprits are caught, they should get wrist slap penalties, easy bail and maybe short jail terms. These are not thugs that should be incarcerated. No real harm done, right?

Think again. White-collar crime is a devastating form of financial assault

Take these two examples:

1. A woman in her early seventies had been sold some internet infrastructure and e-business technology funds in 1999. The salesman had befriended her while she was recovering in hospital from heart attack. Within the year, the funds were down 85% and most of her life's savings with them. When she found out, she had a relapse. She was dead within a month.

2.An engineer in his fifties was on a five-year assignment in Africa assisting local authorities develop a mine. His trusted adviser back in Montréal was sent the tax-free earnings and given the authority to invest in conservative securities. When he returned, his $1.5 million had been melted down to $146,000. He ended up getting divorced and suffered from depression for the rest of his life. He was never able to trust anyone again. He died a broken man existing month –to-month in a tiny one-room apartment.

Stan Buell, president of the Small Investor Protection Association likes to refer to financial assault cases as adverse life- altering events. The loss of one's nest egg is a shock that leaves many small investors stunned and immobilized. For seniors and retirees the loss is irrecoverable as time is not on their side. The real negative impact is the physical and emotional collateral damage that white collar crime causes.

Some examples from a variety of interviews, media reports and victim impact statements:

One man, who lost $400,000, had to return to work at age 72 to a physically demanding job working the night shift.

"I believe my first reactions were shock, disbelief and denial, followed by rage, resentment, guilt and then utter depression," one elderly woman observed.

"To know these people used our hard-earned money - they even took money so far back as when I was 10 years old on a paper route. The pain and hurt and always thinking of what was done to you just doesn't go away. I have nightmares"

One man and his wife were using the $2,500 interest paid out monthly on their investment to make a special vaccine from his wife's blood to fight her leukemia. But soon the payments dried up and the investment was gone. "We tried for as long as our finances would allow the treatment. It was impossible to keep up financially". His wife has since died.

“ We have been honest and trustworthy people and expected the same from others," one couple wrote. "We have many sleepless nights thinking about how we would not be able to retire as soon as we wanted."

One man, who lost his life savings of $175,000, said his golden years are shattered. "It hurts to look at your wife and tell her that we cannot afford to do much but sit around and wait for the end of our lives."

Several experienced nervous breakdowns and chronic illness since losing their nest eggs

On July 6, 2006 Madam Justice Petra Newton sentenced the 63-year-old swindler, Earl Crackower, a former financial planner at Toronto-based Worldsource Financial Management Inc., to a 5-year term behind bars and ordered him to pay $3.4 million in restitution to 43 former clients and their families. "Your conduct deprived these people of dignity and respect and the ability to care for their families and themselves in their sunset years." Crown attorney Donna Gillespie told the court that the veteran financial planner artfully manipulated and plotted "the financial, emotional and physical destruction" of his clients, including many elderly women, from 1989 to 2003, Newton told a packed courtroom filled with seniors. Besides losing their life’s savings, how were the victims affected by this life-altering event?

Adversely impacted their health and accelerated their ageing

Eliminated their capacity to trust other people

Destroyed their sense of self- respect and their dignity

Created a sense of hopelessness -an abyss of shame and self-doubt

Paved the road for many of them to near destitution.

Caused terrible stress within families

Caused them to have to get part-time jobs to help make up for the losses, despite their ill-health

Made it impossible to ever buy any gifts for their grandchildren –living with a broken heart

Destroyed any hope of leaving a legacy to family members

In other cases we’ve also heard of marital breakdown, severe emotional distress, nervous breakdowns, heart attacks, drug over-dose and even suicide.

Former Enron employees who thought they'd be well off have abandoned retirement visions that included taking pleasure trips and financing philanthropic projects. Some, at the end of their careers, have started over again in new jobs - but working harder to keep up with younger co-workers. They've turned to churches and food banks to eat, sold homes they could no longer pay for, and endured financial stresses that frayed and ultimately destroyed their marriages. One Enron employee lost it all: his job, the money in the stock and his pension plan that held Enron stock. He was laid off, and he and his wife got by on $1,200 a month in unemployment until that ran out after six months. His wife, a hairdresser, was disabled and couldn't work. He was out of work for more than two years. The family house was put into foreclosure, a home they had owned for 25 years. He remains a bitter man. A number of cases have been documented involving suicide resulting directly from the Enron collapse.

The pain is amplified should a determined investor seek to obtain restitution.

"I don't know if I'll ever be able to recover my life after losing $800,000. I feel I have been living in hell for the last few years. The determined defense of the firm’s ombudsman wore me down emotionally. After 3 years I decided to back out but it has taken a terrible toll on me. I’m now on a permanent pill popping regime to keep me from depression After losing my home and my wife, I now live in a tough neighbourhood and fear for my safety ”

The journey to a successful complaint conclusion can be aggravating, time consuming and add stress to an already stressful situation. Restitution claims require diligence, persistence, determination and a thick skin. You’ll be made to look stupid or greedy by the financial institution. The case will be drawn out with carefully crafted letters that make you look unreasonable. If the firm drags out the proceedings long enough you could lose your right to civil litigation thanks to shortened statute of limitation periods introduced in 2004.

Regulators will refer you to the MFDA and IDA. They in turn will advise you that they may be able to fine or sanction those involved but they can’t get you your money back. If you attempt civil litigation, expect to spend thousands of dollars in legal bills with an uncertain result. You can try industry-sponsored OBSI but don’t expect a quick answer or a high probability of ever seeing your hard earned money back. Assuming all has gone well, a rare event, you'll have to sign a settlement release order in order to receive compensation. Part of this may be a “ gag” order preventing you from discussing the case or the terms of settlement with anyone else including others damaged by the scam. The entire process is designed to deter claims and frustrate resolution .It thus adds further to the pain and amplifies the anger and despair. No wonder so few bother to complain.

Insurance fraud, a variant of financial fraud, can have a devastating effect in that a persons life can be disrupted, expected insurance is not there when needed or when seriously ill people who purchased phony health insurance find their credit ruined when they couldn’t pay large medical bills after their policy refused to pay. The effects can be traumatic.

The horrific Eron Mortgage fraud is encapsulated in a classic study of the impact on victims-it’s a must read ... _Study.pdf

Let’s examine the role of securities commissions in dealing with white-collar crime. The provincial securities Acts are regulatory in nature and not penal. The focus of regulatory law is the protection of societal interests, not punishment of an individual's moral faults. The Portus hedge fund, Norburg mutual fund and the infamous mutual fund market timing cases demonstrates just how ineffective Canadian regulators are in dealing with white collar crime As the Supreme Court has stated: "While criminal offences are usually designed to condemn and punish past inherently wrongful conduct, regulatory measures are generally directed to the prevention of future harm through the enforcement of minimum standards of conduct and care." Basically this leaves victims of white-collar crime unprotected. Securities regulators typically deal with "capital market" offences such as insider trading, misrepresentations in public documents and illegal trading in securities. Their usual sanctions involve fines or orders restricting future activity, such as cease-trade orders or orders prohibiting an individual from serving as a director or officer. Big deal, if you’ve suffered huge financial losses and your life has been turned upside down.

White-collar crime, such as corporate fraud, typically spawns complex, time-consuming and document-intensive cases. Unfortunately, most prosecutors and judges (especially at the Provincial Court level) have little experience with such kinds of cases. Police forces and Crown prosecutors need to allocate the resources to pursue commercial crime with the same effort as violent crime. Parliament needs to adopt stricter sentencing guidelines so that judges can treat commercial crime with the same degree of seriousness as violent crime. A National regulator may make some minor improvements but that is not the real solution for retail investors. Until there is an appropriate response to criminal misconduct in Canada's capital markets i.e. for the federal and provincial governments to treat it as a criminal rather than a regulatory problem and assign to it the high priority and necessary resources which it requires, financial assault will remain unpunished and investors uncompensated. That’s the sad reality in Canada today. John Reynold’s book the Naked Investor makes this abundantly clear, so choose your investments and advisers as carefully as you would any other important element of your life. You are all alone and naked if things go wrong.

To learn more about the issue visit and read the Fraud Victims Manual at ... /index.htm A U.K. Report worth a read is Research of impact of mass marketed scams (A summary of research into the impact of scams on UK consumers). December 2006; 83 pgs ... oft883.pdf.

And what makes robbers bold but too much lenity?[ leniency]

- William Shakespeare, Henry VI, part III

White-collar crime really does prove that the pen is mightier than the sword and its swath just as lethal. Hopefully, our broken justice system will soon catch up with this reality.

Ken Kivenko

from a great site for investor protection
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the violence of white collar crime

Postby admin » Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:57 am

The Suicide Solution
By Barbara Ehrenreich

July 28, 2008
A few days before Congress passed its housing bill, Carlene Balderrama of Taunton, Massachusetts, found her own solution to the housing crisis. Just a little over two hours in advance of the time her mortgage company, PHH Corporation--may its name live in infamy--was to auction off her home, Balderrama killed herself with her husband's rifle.

This is not the kind of response to hard times that James Grant had in mind when he wrote his July 19 Wall Street Journal essay titled "Why No Outrage?" "One might infer from the lack of popular anger," the famed Wall Street contrarian wrote, "that the credit crisis was God's fault rather than the doing of the bankers and the rating agencies and the government's snoozing watchdogs." For contrast, he cites the spirited response to the depression of the 1890s, when lawyer/agitator Mary Lease stirred crowds with the message that "We want the accursed foreclosure system wiped out.... We will stand by our homes and stay by our firesides by force if necessary."

Grant could have found even more bracing examples of resistance in the 1930s, when farmers and tenants used mob power--and sometimes firearms--to fight foreclosures and evictions. For more on that, I consulted Frances Fox Piven, co-author of the classic text Poor People's Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, who told me that in the early '30s a number of cities were so shaken by the resistance that they declared moratoriums on further evictions. A 1931 riot by Chicago tenants who had fallen behind on their rent, for example, had left three dead and three police officers injured.

According to Piven, these actions were often spontaneous. A group of unemployed men would get word of a scheduled eviction and march through the streets, gathering crowds as they went. Arriving at the site of the eviction, they would move the furniture back into the apartment and stay around to protect the threatened tenants. In one instance in Detroit, it took 100 cops to evict a single family. Also in Detroit, Piven said, "two families protected their apartments by shooting their landlord and were acquitted by a sympathetic jury."

What a difference eighty years makes. When the police and the auctioneers arrived at Balderrama's house, the family gun had already been used--on the victim of foreclosure herself. I don't know how "worthy" a debtor she was--the family had been through bankruptcies before, though probably not as a result of Caribbean vacations and closets full of designer clothes. It was an adjustable rate mortgage that did them in, and Balderrama, who managed the family's finances, had apparently been unwilling to tell her husband that their ever-rising monthly mortgage payments were eating up his earnings as a plumber.

Suicide is becoming an increasingly popular response to debt. James Scurlock's brilliant documentary, Maxed Out, features the families of two college students who killed themselves after being overwhelmed by credit card debt. "All the people we talked to had considered suicide at least once," Scurlock told a gathering of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys in 2006. According to the Los Angeles Times, lawyers in the audience backed him up, "describing clients who showed up at their offices with cyanide, or threatened, 'If you don't help me, I've got a gun in my car.' "

India may be the trend-setter here, with an estimated 150,000 debt-ridden farmers succumbing to suicide since 1997. With guns in short supply in rural India, the desperate farmers have taken to drinking the pesticides meant for their crops.

Dry your eyes, already: death is an effective remedy for debt, along with anything else that may be bothering you too. And try to think of it too from a lofty, corner-office, perspective: if you can't pay your debts or afford to play your role as a consumer, and if, in addition-- like an ever-rising number of Americans--you're no longer needed at the workplace, then there's no further point to your existence. I'm not saying that the creditors, the bankers and the mortgage companies actually want you dead, but in a culture where one's credit rating is routinely held up as a three-digit measure of personal self-worth, the correct response to insoluble debt is, in fact, "Just shoot me!"

The alternative is to value yourself more than any amount of money and turn the guns, metaphorically speaking, in the other direction. It wasn't God, or some abstract economic climate change, that caused the credit crisis. Actual humans--often masked as financial institutions-- did that, (and you can find a convenient list of names in Nomi Prins's article in the current issue of Mother Jones.) Most of them, except for a tiny few facing trials, are still high rollers, fattening themselves on the blood and tears of ordinary debtors. I know it's so 1930s, but may I suggest a march on Wall Street?

About Barbara Ehrenreich
Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of Nickel and Dimed (Owl), is the winner of the 2004 Puffin/Nation Prize. more...

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