Biz & Books review: ‘Big Dirty Money’ tackles white-collar crime

Hand sanitizer ... check. Soap and water, yup. Some of that dry soap they sell for camping, yeah, you’ve got that, too.

In today’s world, you can never be too safe or clean, and so you take steps. But in the new book “Big Dirty Money” by Jennifer Taub, there are some corners of the world that need a whole lot more scrubbing.

If you’ve been watching the news for the past decade or so, you know that white collar crime didn’t just spring up yesterday.

No, it’s been going on literally since the Pilgrims landed in this continent and, while there was a brief crackdown some years ago and people received serious jail time, today’s punishment is actually less effective than the Mayflower’s pillory.

No doubt, you’ve noticed more and more criminals are walking away with astoundingly light sentences, being sent to cushy prisons, or getting fat bonuses and no punishment at all.

In a cruel twist on the Trickle-Down Theory, this proliferation of white-collar crime and the go-stand-in-the-corner-for-10-minutes penalties it often receives trickles down to hurt people who can least afford it: the elderly, small investors, mortgage-holders, and disenfranchised residents who receive harsher punishment for lesser crimes.

It’s frustrating, yes, but, says Taub, we can stop elite criminals from getting away with their crimes. We should demand that the DOJ crack down on enforcement — all enforcement, no matter how rich or powerful the miscreant or how high his position (most elite criminals are men).

We can demand stronger protection for whistleblowers and for journalists who hold politicians’ feet to the fire. We can insist that laws be upheld in politics, high government offices, tax realms, Constitutional issues, and in business. And “we need to use our voices,” she says.

“It’s time to demand an end to this elite crime spree,” she writes.

So here’s the thing about “Big Dirty Money” — it’s good, as long as you choose between the preface and the body of the book. Don’t bother with both, because author Jennifer Taub says mostly the same thing in both places — briefly, in the preface; at much greater length, in the rest of the book.

Choose wisely, though. The preface doesn’t include details of the outrageous (and outraging) examples that Taub offers, nor are her solutions nearly as fleshed out there.

Author Jennifer Taub dissects plenty of infuriating examples of white-collar crime.

Conversely, the bulk of the book contains a good amount of policy minutiae and head-spinning particulars that may send you scrambling for the simpler preface.

Whichever you choose, be prepared to blow your top. It’s likely that you’ll be familiar with most, if not all, of the crimes that Taub details, but having them all in one place is like eating a plate full of habaneros: you’ll get red-faced, bug-eyed, sputtering and pretty righteously hot under the collar.

If you’ve ever wondered why no bad deed goes unpunished, “Big Dirty Money” will open your eyes and make you want to open your mouth for change.

It’s a book for businesspeople, investors, activists and anyone who isn’t willing to wash their hands of this subject.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is the reviewer behind “The Bookworm Sez,” a self-syndicated book review column published in more than 260 newspapers and magazines. Reach her at


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