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First Book to Tackle Criminology of Global Financial Crisis Edited By John Jay Faculty

“How They Got Away with It: White Collar Criminals and the Financial Meltdown” is the first book that examines the criminology of the 2008 world financial crisis in a compilation of essays written by a cross-section of national and international experts. The book is edited by Assistant Professor Susan Will of the Sociology Department, Director of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice Stephen Handelman, and  Professor David C. Brotherton, co-chair of the Department of Sociology.

Will, Handelman and Brotherton gathered contributions from sociologists, economists, criminologists, and lawyers after a conference called: Financial Meltdown: How Did They Get Away With It? that was organized  by  the Center on Media, Crime and Justice with support from the McCormick Foundation for national financial journalists, academics and practitioners. 

“The media and expert commentators were focused on the economic reasons for the breakdown, and individual cases of malfeasance, especially after the accusations of Occupy Wall Street,” said Handelman. “We wanted to gather the best minds in criminology, sociology and finance from around the world and ask the hard questions about whether there were larger systemic issues of white collar criminality involved, why no one caught them, and how we can prevent similar crises from happening again.”

Handelman and Will said that in the last 20 to 30 years no other book or textbook has examined financial crime as a systemic international challenge.

 “It’s unique because we took a global approach and a highly interdisciplinary perspective,” said Brotherton. “We’re trying to educate people around the global significance, and not allow this crisis to become just another event from the past. We are teaching people about real analysis; it’s happening in real time. We hope it teaches our students to think globally and comparatively, to put themselves in other positions, and to see links between crime and sociology.”

The distinguished contributors looked at financial crime from a multitude of perspectives. Authors include Gilbert Geis who is Professor Emeritus of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine; Jock Young who is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at John Jay and the CUNY Graduate Center and Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent in the UK; Laureen Snider who is Professor of Sociology (Emerita) at Queen’s University; David O. Friedrichs who writes text books on white collar crime; and William K. Black, a former federal regulator who is considered the leading expert on the nation’s financial regulatory structure, and who helped bring down the so-called “Keating Five---five U.S. Senators accused of corruption for their part in the 1989 Savings and Loan scandal.

“The approach has been that there are a couple of bad apples,” said Will. “(It’s considered) soft criminality: we will get away with as much as we can. There are a lot of reasons for this that the authors give, the structure of the financial systems, obviously the weakness of regulators, lobbying efforts. But we don’t seem to learn our lessons. This book is a first step.”