The Justice Department, saying that white-collar crime has risen to a "nationally significant level," has announced the formation of an advisory council to pool resources from different areas and facilitate investigation and prosecution of such offenses.
The 23-member Economic Crime Council, created by an order from Attorney General William French Smith in May, will hold its first meeting today in Chicago.
The group is composed of U.S. attorneys from 19 major cities, including Washington, and will tentatively be chaired by associate attorney general-designate D. Lowell Jensen.
Heads of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, the Criminal Division's Fraud Section and the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division will also serve on the panel.
The council will concentrate on crucial sectors where white-collar crime is a problem, the department announced Friday, including defense and federal procurement programs, federally regulated industries such as securities and commodities, international white-collar crimes such as money laundering, and federal benefit, contract, grant and loan-assistance programs.
Roger Olson, special counsel to the associate attorney general, said the council provides an institutional framework for consultation between different U.S. attorneys' offices across the country.
Since "certain offices have more business and more expertise," the council will try to take that expertise and share it with all offices, he said.
In complicated cases involving securities-trade fraud and money laundering, one office's experience can help another investigation, he said.
The council will also seek to identify major areas of white-collar crime, place priorities on dealing with them, divert resources temporarily to deal with major problems and recommend improvements in operational methods of Justice Department prosecutors, according to the May order.
Areas of priority for dealing with white-collar crime will be identified yearly by the council and incorporated into each region's law enforcement plan, the order said.
U.S. attorneys contacted around the country welcomed the council, saying that it will increase the level of consultation.
Even though some consultation is going on, the council should increase the exchange of information, they said.
"You'd be surprised how little day-to-day consultation I actually have" with other U.S. attorneys, said Joseph P. Russoniello, U.S. attorney for San Francisco, who will sit on the council.
The council will formalize the exchange of information already going on between U.S. attorney's offices, said Raymond J. Dearie, U.S. attorney for Brooklyn, adding that if federal officials take it seriously, the level of consultation should increase significantly.
"The point of the matter is . . . you need all the available facts before you can make a judgment," he said, facts that other offices can provide.
Dearie added that the council will be no panacea for white-collar crime, but it will help.
Russoniello said having a council could resolve problems of jurisdictional quarrels between federal prosecutors, and expedite the litigation of white-collar crime.
Typically, white-collar crime extends beyond the jurisdictional boundaries of one U.S. attorney, he said.
Olson said today's meeting will be to determine which problems need to be addressed first, adding that the group will probably look initially at the implications of the Supreme Court decision in U.S. vs. Sells Engineering.
In that case, the Supreme Court prohibited federal investigators from using information provided to a grand jury in other civil proceedings without first obtaining a court order.
Although Olson said no regular schedule of meetings has been established yet, the May order said the council will be meeting regularly.
Evaluation of the council is set to be conducted every two years from May 1984, the order said.