Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Insider Trading

This WSJ story gives us the poop on one of the most serious crimes that can be committed today in the USA, disseminating knowledge of upcoming business events and allowing others to profit from that knowledge.  Eddie Murray and Doug DeCinces, one-time Baltimore Oriole team-mates, have avoided federal incarceration by ponying up eye-popping amounts of money, almost as unimaginable as their salaries as entertainers in major league baseball, to purchase their freedom.  They, or their attorneys, took notice of home-making icon Martha Stewart's residency behind bars for the very same offence and decided not to risk their liberty by fighting the charges and paid the tribute demanded by the federal enforcement bureaucrats of the SEC.

As everyone knows, defendants in such cases settle out of court because of the costs of defense, which could be more than the negotiated fine, and the uncertainty of the eventual outcome of the case.  The third, and generally ignored aspect of the situation, is that while defendants must pay for their defense, win or lose, and have a finite amount of money to spend on it, there's no theoretical limit to the resources available to the government for prosecution.  Government agencies and their attorneys risk virtually nothing in the pursuit of such cases since failure is costless but success leads to higher positions in government and private practice and the ultimate prize, elected political office.

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