Tuesday, January 6, 2009


The library subscribes to a database called TracFed. We have described this database in prior posts. See post of 5/5/08, Our TracFed Database. A recent front page article in the New York Times by Eric Lichtblau, December 24, 2008, "Federal Cases of Stock Frau Drop Sharply," demonstrates that this database enjoys prominence in the American journalistic and political sphere.

TracFed is a source of government information compiled from government data about its law enforcement efforts, spending and personnel allocation. If the government itself has not compiled the information, TracFed professionals make freedom of information requests and compile the data for publication. Portions of the information offered is free and some data searches require a payment or subscription.

In this case the article uses TracFed data to highlight the fact that federal fraud prosecutions have dropped because law enforcement was diverted to the war on terror after 9/11. The article characterizes the TracFed data this way:

There were 133 prosecutions for securities fraud in the first 11 months of this fiscal year. That is down from 437 cases in 2000 and from a high of 513 cases in 2002, when Wall Street scandals from Enron to WorldCom led to a crackdown on corporate crime, the data showed.
I was delighted that the article quoted co-director, David Burnham, who made a personal trip to South Texas to talk to librarians about using TracFed:
David Burnham, co-director of the Syracuse research group, which is known as the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, said the decline in stock fraud prosecutions growing out of the F.B.I. “really is no surprise. It’s a reflection of a choice that was made right after 9-11 to move investigators into terrorism, and this is the cost of that.