Recognizing the issue of class bias in response to white-collar criminal offenders remains unresolved due to data limitations, research design problems, and debates over the conceptualization of core factors, recent data on formal actions taken against Federal securities offenders were used to reconsider the issue of bias.
Data were compiled from public announcements or releases of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) enforcement actions. All individuals were included in the sampling frame who were defendants in either a civil or an administrative action reported in the SEC Docket between 1987 and 1991. The resulting defendant-based sample consisted of 472 different individuals. Data analysis focused on class position and nature of the offense and examined the entire range of legal actions taken against offenders--civil, administrative, and criminal. Logistic regression analysis determined the likelihood of offenders receiving a punitive sanction. It was found both principals and "contrepreneurs" were significantly less likely to receive a punitive response than managers and other legitimate actors in the workplace. Securities professionals, other than principals, were especially vulnerable to punitive sanctions if they were affiliated with larger firms in the industry, as opposed to smaller firms. Factors beyond the immediate control of SEC litigators resulted in a biased distribution of justice. The author concludes the relationship between class position and the punishment of white-collar criminal offenders is more complex than previously suggested and recommends further research on constraints involved in punishing white-collar crimes. Additional information on study variables and offense types is appended. 70 references and 6 tables