Home News Speeches Calculators, Computers, and Cover-Ups: Taking on Corporate Fraud
  • John S. Pistole
  • Deputy Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Five-Year Anniversary of the President's Corporate Fraud Task Force
  • Washington, D.C.
  • July 17, 2007

Good morning. Perhaps a hundred years ago, it would have been hard to envision a complex fraud case on the scale of Enron. But corporate fraud—self-dealing by executives, obstruction of justice, in short, greed on a grand scale—is not by any means a new phenomenon.

It was President Teddy Roosevelt who, at the turn of the last century, took on what he called “the malefactors of wealth.” He targeted corporate fraud and corruption and what he termed the “robber barons.”

But in 1901, the Justice Department did not have its own investigative arm. To remedy that, Roosevelt approved a plan by then-Attorney General Charles Bonaparte to stand up a small team of “special agents” to carry out a variety of investigations.

In 1908 that group of 34 investigators became what is today the FBI.

Over nearly a century, through the eras of gangsterism, espionage, and even 9/11, the FBI has never wavered from its mission to fight corporate fraud.

In the year 2006 alone, 98 years after the FBI’s formation, the Bureau investigated 490 corporate fraud cases resulting in 171 indictments, 124 convictions, $14 million dollars in fines, and $62 million dollars in seizures.

But I think the number that would resonate the most with the victims of these frauds would be this one: $1.2 billion dollars in restitutions.

If we were a company and that was our bottom line for 2006, the Wall Street analysts would say we had a good year.

Certainly, there has been concern in the post 9/11 era that as the Bureau has shifted priorities, enforcement in the area of white-collar crime would suffer. Yes, we have had to work “smarter” but I think the results are worthy of mention: In 2002 when this task force started, we had 291 pending corporate fraud cases. In 2006 it was 490.

True, we may be investigating fewer $5,000 bank frauds, but we have focused more on the sophisticated, multi-layered fraud cases that injure the marketplace and threaten the economy.

The cases that matter the most don’t start in the mailroom. They start in the boardroom.

There are the mega-cases like Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, HealthSouth—and the list goes on and on. But there are cases like the guilty plea yesterday in New York of a pharmaceutical company that resulted in a $20 million fine that barely make the news today.

These are not the cases one thinks of when they think of the FBI. There are no car chases or gun battles. The weapons of corporate crime are calculators, computers, and cover-ups.

The agents who work these cases do some of the most complex, tedious, and, in the end, significant work we do for the American public.

The resources the FBI can bring to these cases are significant but we hold not even the slightest pretense that we could do any of this without the larger team that the Corporate Fraud Task Force represents.

Our agents, often lawyers and accountants, gather pieces of the puzzle, but only when joined with the pieces gathered by the investigators from the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network does the whole picture come together.

Then teams of Justice Department lawyers and Assistant U.S. Attorneys have to shepherd these cases through trial facing the top defense attorneys in the country.

That is why we are here today: to honor that work. Twelve-hundred convictions later, the accomplishments of the Corporate Fraud Task Force demonstrate that the sum is greater than the parts. That should be the measure of success for any task force.

We thank you for that partnership and we are honored to be a contributor to this great and continuing effort. Theodore Rex would have been proud.

To the Corporate Fraud Task Force, here is to five very good years.

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