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Big Dirty Money

Big Dirty Money

There is an elite crime spree happening in America, and the privileged perps are getting away with it. Selling loose cigarettes on a city sidewalk can lead to a choke hold arrest and death. But if you’re in the 1 percent and commit mail, wire, or bank fraud; embezzle pension funds; lie to the FBI; obstruct justice; bribe a public official; launder money; or cheat on your taxes, you’re likely to get off scot-free (or even win an election). If caught and convicted, say, for bribing your kid’s way into college, you might make a brief stop in a minimum-security “Club Fed” camp. Operate the scam from the executive suite of a giant corporation, and you can prosper with impunity.

This is not victimless crime. Big Dirty Money goes beyond the headlines (of which there is no shortage—Wells Fargo, Theranos, Purdue Pharma) to detail the scandalous ways that all the rest of us suffer when the well-heeled use white collar crime to gain and sustain wealth, social status, and political influence. Profiteers caused the mortgage meltdown and the prescription opioid crisis. They’ve evaded taxes and depleted public funds for education, public health, and infrastructure. The financial cost to victims for fraud and embezzlement alone is as much as $800 billion a year.

Jennifer Taub sounds an alarm we ignore at our country’s peril. The solutions include strengthening prosecutorial muscle, protecting journalists and whistleblowers, challenging the “too big to jail” syndrome, and overturning the growing implicit immunity of the upper class. This urgent book should enrage—and engage—consumers, citizens, and everybody who believes no one is above the law.