Monday, October 20, 2008

Time to End the Insane FBI Forced-Retirement Policy

The New York Times yesterday had a devastating article on the decline in prosecutions of white collar crime during the Bush Administration, and pointed out that the FBI was struggling to find the personnel it needed to prosecute white collar crime and criminal cases generally.

The Times reported:

From 2001 to 2007, the F.B.I. sought an increase of more than 1,100 agents for criminal investigations apart from national security. Instead, it suffered a decrease of 132 agents, according to internal F.B.I. figures obtained by The New York Times. During these years, the bureau asked for an increase of $800 million, but received only $50 million more. In the 2007 budget cycle, the F.B.I. obtained money for a total of one new agent for criminal investigations.

In 2004, one senior F.B.I. official, Chris Swecker, warned publicly that a flood of fraudulent mortgage deals had the potential to become “an epidemic.” Yet the next year, as public warnings about fraud in the subprime lending markets began to approach their height, the F.B.I. had the equivalent of only 15 full-time agents devoted to mortgage fraud out of a total of some 13,000 agents in the bureau.
It also noted that "In some instances, private investigative and accounting firms are now collecting evidence, taking witness statements and even testifying before grand juries, in effect preparing courtroom-ready prosecutions they can take to the F.B.I. or local authorities."

But what the article didn't point out is that many of those private investigative and accounting firms are staffed by retired FBI agents -- experienced investigators who left the bureau for private employment, either voluntarily or forced out by the FBI's insane policy of retiring agents at the age of 57.

Sam Antar points out that "Top-notch, experienced FBI agents are leaving the Bureau for higher paying private industry jobs as soon as they qualify for retirement causing a brain drain within the FBI. As white collar crime is becoming increasingly complex, our government must revise employee retention policies to compete with the private sector."

I agree. In the past I've pointed out the sheer stupidity of the forced-retirement policy, which has stripped the bureau of some of its best people. Time for it to end.

© 2008 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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