Recalibrating the Federal Economic Crime Guideline: An Admiring Rejoinder to Judge Bennett and Friends

35 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2017 Last revised: 28 Apr 2017

Date Written: April 9, 2017


This is a response to an article by U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett and Professors Justin Levinson and Koichi Hioki in which they critique some deficiencies in the current Federal Sentencing Guideline governing economic crime (U.S.S.G. Section 2B1.1), present the results of their own survey of judicial attitudes toward sentencing a representative fraud case, and make some useful prescriptions for change.

While I agree with most of their diagnoses and virtually all of their prescriptions, there are points on which we are not entirely in accord. Moreover, the data from their survey may point in slightly different directions than they suggest.

After discussing their survey results, I offer suggestions on how the federal economic crime guideline might be recalibrated. I note that, according to U.S. Sentencing Commission data, in 2001-2002, federal district judges seemed to have been more comfortable with the sentences prescribed by the Guidelines than in the years before or since that interval. This suggests that, for those who believe federal economic crime sentences for some classes of defendants are commonly too high, sentence levels in that period might provide a good reset point.

I also address proposed changes to particular components of the economic crime guideline including the loss table, specific offense characteristics, the victim table, the sophisticated means enhancement, and a propose departure for pecuniary gain.

Keywords: federal sentencing guidelines, guidelines, criminal law, sentencing, economic crime, fraud, 2B1.1, loss table, loss, sophisticated means, specific offense characteristics, victim table, pecuniary gain

JEL Classification: K1, K14, K42, K41

Suggested Citation

Bowman III, Frank O., Recalibrating the Federal Economic Crime Guideline: An Admiring Rejoinder to Judge Bennett and Friends (April 9, 2017). 102 Iowa Law Review Online 205 (2017), University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-14, Available at SSRN:

Frank O. Bowman III (Contact Author)

University of Missouri School of Law ( email )

Missouri Avenue & Conley Avenue
Columbia, MO MO 65211
United States
573-882-2749 (Phone)

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