The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which went into effect in 1987, were meant to bring more consistency to sentencing. After a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2005, the guidelines became advisory, giving judges greater flexibility. Judges, in fact, often find reasons to depart downward, according to a Reuters analysis of sentences imposed in 2009 and 2010. That analysis looked at 15 insider-trading cases brought by the U.S. Attorney in New York. Of the 15 sentences handed down in that time period for insider trading, 13 were lighter than the terms prescribed by the guidelines.
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