ALICE DIDN’T HAVE TO WAIT LONG FOR AN ANSWER. ON APRIL 7, 2003, white-collar crime was given its biggest boost in history. Corporate swindlers, con artists, scammers, thieves, and killers had found an ally in a very unlikely place: the Supreme Court of the United States. In State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Campbell, our nation’s highest court slapped down the rights of states to sanction the awarding of punitive damages at a level sufficient to deter outrageous fraud.

Big exemplary damage awards, said the Court, were “unfair.” The thieves were “not on notice” for what could happen to them if they were caught robbing the bank. Punitive damages, said the Court, had to have a “single digit” ...

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