Amendment: Section 2B1.1 is amended in subsection (b)(2) by striking the following:
“ (Apply the greatest) If the offense—
(A) (i) involved 10 or more victims; or (ii) was committed through mass-marketing, increase by 2 levels;
(B) involved 50 or more victims, increase by 4 levels; or
(C) involved 250 or more victims, increase by 6 levels.”,
and inserting the following:
“ (Apply the greatest) If the offense—
(A) (i) involved 10 or more victims; (ii) was committed through mass-marketing; or (iii) resulted in substantial financial hardship to one or more victims, increase by 2 levels;
(B) resulted in substantial financial hardship to five or more victims, increase by 4 levels; or
(C) resulted in substantial financial hardship to 25 or more victims, increase by 6 levels.”;
in subsection (b)(10)(C) by inserting after “the offense otherwise involved sophisticated means” the following: “and the defendant intentionally engaged in or caused the conduct constituting sophisticated means”;
and in subsection (b)(16)(B) by inserting “or” at the end of subdivision (i), and by striking “; or (iii) substantially endangered the solvency or financial security of 100 or more victims”.
The Commentary to §2B1.1 captioned “Application Notes” is amended in Note 3(A)(ii) by striking “(I) means the pecuniary harm that was intended to result from the offense; and” and inserting “(I) means the pecuniary harm that the defendant purposely sought to inflict; and”;
in Note 3(F)(ix) by striking “there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the actual loss attributable to the change in value of the security or commodity is the amount determined by—” and inserting “the court in determining loss may use any method that is appropriate and practicable under the circumstances. One such method the court may consider is a method under which the actual loss attributable to the change in value of the security or commodity is the amount determined by—”;
in Note 4 by striking “50 victims” and inserting “10 victims” at subdivision (C)(ii); and by inserting at the end the following new subdivision (F):
“(F) Substantial Financial Hardship.—In determining whether the offense resulted in substantial financial hardship to a victim, the court shall consider, among other factors, whether the offense resulted in the victim—
(i) becoming insolvent;
(ii) filing for bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code (title 11, United States Code);
(iii) suffering substantial loss of a retirement, education, or other savings or investment fund;
(iv) making substantial changes to his or her employment, such as postponing his or her retirement plans;
(v) making substantial changes to his or her living arrangements, such as relocating to a less expensive home; and
(vi) suffering substantial harm to his or her ability to obtain credit.”;
in Note 9 by striking “Sophisticated Means Enhancement under” in the heading and inserting “Application of”; and by inserting at the end of the heading of subdivision (B) the following: “under Subsection (b)(10)(C)”;
and in Note 20(A)(vi) by striking both “or credit record” and “or a damaged credit record”.
Reason for Amendment: This amendment makes several changes to the guideline applicable to economic crimes, §2B1.1 (Theft, Property Destruction, and Fraud), to better account for harm to victims, individual culpability, and the offender’s intent. This amendment is a result of the Commission’s multi-year study of §2B1.1 and related guidelines, and follows extensive data collection and analysis relating to economic offenses and offenders. Using this Commission data, combined with legal analysis and public comment, the Commission identified a number of specific areas where changes were appropriate.
First, the amendment revises the victims table in §2B1.1(b)(2) to specifically incorporate substantial financial hardship to victims as a factor in sentencing economic crime offenders. As amended, the first tier of the victims table provides for a 2-level enhancement where the offense involved 10 or more victims or mass-marketing, or if the offense resulted in substantial financial hardship to one or more victims. The 4-level enhancement applies if the offense resulted in substantial financial hardship to five or more victims, and the 6-level enhancement applies if the offense resulted in substantial financial hardship to 25 or more victims. As a conforming change, the special rule in Application Note 4(C)(ii)(I), pertaining to theft of undelivered mail, is also revised to refer to 10 rather than 50 victims.
In addition, the amendment adds a non-exhaustive list of factors for courts to consider in determining whether the offense caused substantial financial hardship. These factors include: becoming insolvent; filing for bankruptcy; suffering substantial loss of a retirement, education, or other savings or investment fund; making substantial changes to employment; making substantial changes to living arrangements; or suffering substantial harm to the victim’s ability to obtain credit. Two conforming changes are also included. First, one factor — substantial harm to ability to obtain credit — was previously included in Application Note 20(A)(vi) as a potential departure consideration. The amendment removes this language from the Application Note. Second, the amendment deletes subsection (b)(16)(B)(iii), which provided for an enhancement where an offense substantially endangered the solvency or financial security of 100 or more victims.
The Commission continues to believe that the number of victims is a meaningful measure of the harm and scope of an offense and can be indicative of its seriousness. It is for this reason that the amended victims table maintains the 2-level enhancement for offenses that involve 10 or more victims or mass marketing. However, the revisions to the victims table also reflect the Commission’s conclusion that the guideline should place greater emphasis on the extent of harm that particular victims suffer as a result of the offense. Consistent with the Commission’s overall goal of focusing more on victim harm, the revised victims table ensures that an offense that results in even one victim suffering substantial financial harm receives increased punishment, while also lessening the cumulative impact of loss and the number of victims, particularly in high-loss cases.
Second, the amendment revises the commentary at §2B1.1, Application Note 3(A)(ii), which has defined intended loss as “pecuniary harm that was intended to result from the offense.” In interpreting this provision, courts have expressed some disagreement as to whether a subjective or an objective inquiry is required. Compare United States v. Manatau, 647 F.3d 1048 (10th Cir. 2011) (holding that a subjective inquiry is required), United States v. Diallo, 710 F.3d 147, 151 (3d Cir. 2013) (“To make this determination, we look to the defendant’s subjective expectation, not to the risk of loss to which he may have exposed his victims.”), United States v. Confredo, 528 F.3d 143, 152 (2d Cir. 2008) (remanding for consideration of whether defendant had “proven a subjective intent to cause a loss of less than the aggregate amount” of fraudulent loans), and United States v. Sanders, 343 F.3d 511, 527 (5th Cir. 2003) (“our case law requires the government prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant had the subjective intent to cause the loss that is used to calculate his offense level”), with United States v. Innarelli, 524 F.3d 286, 291 (1st Cir. 2008) (“we focus our loss inquiry for purposes of determining a defendant’s offense level on the objectively reasonable expectation of a person in his position at the time he perpetrated the fraud, not on his subjective intentions or hopes”) and United States v. Lane, 323 F.3d 568, 590 (7th Cir. 2003) (“The determination of intended loss under the Sentencing Guidelines therefore focuses on the conduct of the defendant and the objective financial risk to victims caused by that conduct”).
The amendment adopts the approach taken by the Tenth Circuit by revising the commentary in Application Note 3(A)(ii) to provide that intended loss means the pecuniary harm that “the defendant purposely sought to inflict.” The amendment reflects the Commission’s continued belief that intended loss is an important factor in economic crime offenses, but also recognizes that sentencing enhancements predicated on intended loss, rather than losses that have actually accrued, should focus more specifically on the defendant’s culpability.
Third, the amendment narrows the focus of the specific offense characteristic at §2B1.1(b)(10)(C) to cases in which the defendant intentionally engaged in or caused conduct constituting sophisticated means. Prior to the amendment, the enhancement applied if “the offense otherwise involved sophisticated means.” Based on this language, courts had applied this enhancement on the basis of the sophistication of the overall scheme without a determination of whether the defendant’s own conduct was “sophisticated.” See, e.g., United States v. Green, 648 F.3d 569, 576 (7th Cir. 2011); United States v. Bishop-Oyedepo, 480 Fed. App’x 431, 433–34 (7th Cir. 2012); United States v. Jenkins-Watt, 574 F.3d 950, 965 (8th Cir. 2009). The Commission concluded that basing the enhancement on the defendant’s own intentional conduct better reflects the defendant’s culpability and will appropriately minimize application of this enhancement to less culpable offenders.
Fraud on the Market
Finally, the amendment revises the special rule at Application Note 3(F)(ix) relating to the calculation of loss in cases involving the fraudulent inflation or deflation in the value of a publicly traded security or commodity. When this special rule was added to the guidelines, it established a rebuttable presumption that the specified loss calculation methodology provides a reasonable estimate of the actual loss in such cases. As amended, the method provided in the special rule is no longer the presumed starting point for calculating loss in these cases. Instead, the revised special rule states that the provided method is one method that courts may consider, but that courts, in determining loss, are free to use any method that is appropriate and practicable under the circumstances. This amendment reflects the Commission’s view that the most appropriate method to determine a reasonable estimate of loss will often vary in these highly complex and fact-intensive cases.
This amendment, in combination with related revisions to the mitigating role guideline at §3B1.2 (Mitigating Role), reflects the Commission’s overall goal of focusing the economic crime guideline more on qualitative harm to victims and individual offender culpability.
Effective Date: The effective date of this amendment is November 1, 2015.