U.S. Sentencing Commission Proposes Harsher Sentences for Securities and Mortgage Fraud
On January 19, the U.S. Sentencing Commission proposed more severe sentencing guidelines for certain securities and mortgage fraud violations. The proposal implements two directives of the Dodd-Frank Act, which require the Commission to re-evaluate penalties in cases involving (i) securities fraud and similar offenses, and (ii) mortgage fraud and financial institution fraud. Generally, the Commission seeks comment on whether the current guidelines appropriately account for potential and actual harm to the public and financial markets from securities, mortgage, and financial institution fraud. With regard to securities fraud, the Commission proposes amendments to address sophisticated insider trading and frauds conducted by individuals holding certain positions of trust. In addressing the mortgage fraud directive, the Commission proposes changes to the calculation of loss in cases of a fraud involving a mortgage loan, including that (i) the loss should be determined by the amount recovered from the foreclosure sale where the collateral has been disposed of at a foreclosure sale; and (ii) reasonably foreseeable administrative costs to the lending institution associated with foreclosing on the mortgaged property may be included as reasonably foreseeable pecuniary harm provided that the lending institution exercised due diligence in the initiation, processing, and monitoring of the loan and the disposal of the collateral. Finally, with regard to more general financial institution fraud, the proposal seeks to provide an enhancement for offenses involving specific financial harms, such as jeopardizing the financial institution. The deadline for written public comments regarding the proposed amendments is March 19, 2012.