How the New Administration Could Shift Culture Around White-Collar Prosecutions

The COVID-19 pandemic ground much of 2020 to a halt, and that includes countless judicial venues that dispense hearings on civil and criminal matters. Even before coronavirus hit the Pacific Coast, though, prosecutions for white-collar crime were at historic lows. At the conclusion of 2020, the number of white-collar prosecutions totaled around half of the 2011 peak for the Obama administration. With yet another new White House occupant, plenty of judicial and political experts in the white-collar arena expect the number of prosecutions to increase. 

While the Trump administration was expected to shift judicial focus on a few key issues, there were some surprises. For instance, the 45th president kept up a fair number of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prosecutions. The number of deals made between companies like Boeing and President Trump’s Department of Justice in the final few months of the administration signals that many in D.C. expect a tougher line from Biden when it comes to fraud, conspiracy, and other white-collar charges. 

For clues about the new Justice Department, look to the president’s nominees for Attorney General (Merrick Garland) and Securities and Exchange Commission (Gary Gensler). Garland, made famous for his blocked consideration as former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement, became nationally known as a federal prosecutor with the Oklahoma City bombing case in the mid-1990s. So far, the only public remarks we’ve received from Garland are boilerplate statements about the importance of the rule of law and applying it equally; it remains to be seen what Garland will prioritize as Attorney General. Gensler was chair of the SEC’s Futures Trading Commission during a large portion of the Obama administration and was responsible for crafting important parts of the Dodd-Frank Act. 

The attitude of the Biden administration’s federal prosecutors when it comes to white-collar crime will be shaped by more than just Gensler and Garland. The trend of framing white-collar investigations in a more international light is sure to continue, and federal agencies and departments will continue to collaborate on significant cases. A few of the criminal areas that could be ramped up include: 

  • False Claims Act
  • Environmental Regulation
  • Antitrust
  • Insider Trading
  • Civil Rights
  • Workplace Safety


It is common for fluctuations in federal prosecutions when accounting for new presidential administrations. There are indications that the shift may be more pronounced in the next few years. What doesn’t change is the need for experienced and quality legal counsel when you are charged with a white-collar crime. The team at Weisberg Kainen Mark has decades of combined experience representing defendants dealing with serious and complex white-collar charges. Call us today at (305) 374-5544 to discuss your options.

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