Financial Crime: a New Twist on the Sex-Offender Registry, March 24, 2016
By Jean Eaglesham
States have taken the idea of the sex-offender registry and applied it to everything from kidnapping to animal abuse.
is expanding it into new territory: financial crime. Utah
An early version of the White Collar Crime Offender Registry, which has been online since February, includes more than 100 people convicted of tax, credit-card or insurance fraud; thefts from employers or friends; and bilking investors.
They include 41-year-old Kenneth Ray Wagner. “Eye Color: Blue. Hair Color: Blonde … Targets: Insurance company.”
The registry displays Mr. Wagner’s mugshot and explains that he was convicted in 2008 of fraud for dismantling his motorcycle, hiding the parts in a storage locker and claiming to his insurance company that it had been stolen.
The list makes
the most aggressive jurisdiction in the country when it comes to publicly
shaming financial criminals. No other state operates such a list. The
Securities and Exchange Commission often shields the identities of offenders. Utah
The agency last month refused a public-records request by The Wall Street Journal for information on sanctions paid by specific individuals, saying that providing such information would be “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority does require disclosure of events like some criminal convictions, regulatory actions and customer complaints. But it only applies to securities professionals, and the disclosures are intermingled in a database that includes more routine facts like work history.
It could also create leverage to get felons to make their victims whole. Convicts who comply with court orders on time and pay restitution in full won’t appear on the list.
“That’s the carrot,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said.
The new policy plunges the state into a broader debate about using name-and-shame tactics to punish convicts who have already served their time.
Registries have proliferated rapidly in the
, experts say. While some lists
restrict access to law-enforcement agencies or fire officials, others can be
viewed online by anyone, according to the National Conference of State
Legislatures. In addition to the 50 states that publicly track sex offenders,
five states including U.S.
require registration for arson. California Minnesota, and six others
maintain lists of methamphetamine producers. In Illinois , a public website lets visitors use
Google Maps to find the location of homes that have been used as meth
requires registration for animal abuse— something nine other state legislatures
are debating. Tennessee
law requires registration by anyone convicted of a felony of any kind for up to
five years after completing the sentence. Florida
In all, the number of Americans on such lists will soon approach a million, if it isn’t already there, said J.J. Prescott, a law professor at the
He warned of possible unintended consequences from applying a public alert
designed for sex offenses to other crimes, such as the risk of drug-offender
registries being used by addicts to find suppliers. University of Michigan
"Do we want to be a nation of registries?” asked Douglas Berman, a law professor at
. Ohio State University