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Why the Feds Are Going After Insider Trading, Not Wall Street CEOs

Daily Ticker

In his latest book, "Circle of Friends," veteran Wall Street reporter and Fox Business senior correspondent Charlie Gasparino details the federal government’s crackdown on insider trading. To date, federal prosecutors have charged 83 people and won 73 convictions, most notably against Galleon Group’s Raj Rajaratnam and his accomplices, while continuing their pursuit of SAC Capital’s Steven Cohen.

Related: Hedge Fund Titan Steven Cohen Isn't Off the Hook: Gasparino

Gasparino’s book examines all those cases (and more) in great detail but also examines the bigger question: Why have the feds targeted insider trading vs. the alleged crimes that led to the 2008 financial crisis?

The crisis was a “huge cataclysmic event and it’s odd nothing came out of it” in terms of prosecution, he says. “Why? It’s hard to prove irrational exuberance -- which was at the heart of the financial crises -- equates fraud.”

Cases against Wall Street executives “are very difficult” for prosecutors, Gasparino says, citing recent reports that Jon Corzine will escape any criminal prosecution for the bankruptcy of MF Global. “What he did is not fraud; what he did is stupidity.”

Related: Gasparino on Corzine: “What He Did Was Not Criminal, What He Did Was Stupid”

On the other hand, insider-trading cases are somewhat more cut and dry, often involve salacious details, and offered regulators an opportunity to show the public they were cracking down on financial crimes.

“It was used politically by the Obama administration to tell people ‘we're cracking down on Wall Street’ when [insider trading] had nothing to do with the mortgage crisis,” Gasparino says, while acknowledging the government’s efforts began during the administration of George W. Bush.

But does Gasparino believe insider trading is a “victimless crime,” as some (serious) academics claim? Watch the above video to find out.

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker and Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at altask@yahoo.com

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