UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
SPEECH OF U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO
BEFORE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF RETIRED PERSONS
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 1998
THE WILLARD HOTEL
1401 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE, N.W.
P R O C E E D I N G S
MS. KING: Helen Busalis is going to introduce Attorney General
MS. BUSALIS: Good morning. What a truly special privilege it is to
introduce our next speaker, who needs little introduction to this group. We were all
reminded of her determination to crack down on white collar crime and fraudulent
telemarketers, in particular, in our "AARP Bulletin" of last December.
In the early thirties when I grew up as a girl in Minneapolis, Minnesota,
Amelia Earhart made her history making flight across the Atlantic, you will remember
that, and became my heroine, my role model then. I suspect if I were growing up
today, 65 years later, my role model would be the first woman to hold one of this
nation's highest offices as Attorney General of the United States, our "top cop," as our
"Bulletin" calls her, the Honorable Janet Reno.
MS. RENO: I will tell you a sequel to the Amelia Earhart story in
return for that wonderful comment, and that is, my mother was a young cub reporter
for "The Miami Herald." One Sunday morning she was told to go out to the
Opa-Locka hangar because Amelia Earhart was preparing to take off for South
America on her round the world trip with Fred Noonan her navigator. My mother
helped push the plane out of the hangar and she asked Ms. Earhart, "Ms. Earhart, why
are you doing this?"
Ms. Earhart looked at her somewhat puzzled and said, "Just for fun."
MS. RENO: I can't suggest to you that I am being attorney general just
MS. RENO: But at the same time, I made a promise to myself that I
would never do anything after I graduated from law school that I didn't enjoy doing,
and this has been a wonderful opportunity to try to use the law the right way to protect
the American people both from crime and from other violations of the law.
I thank you for inviting me to spend some time with you today because
you have been a very effective force outside of government in helping us to achieve
our goals. You are an example for this nation of what we can do when groups such as
yours, business groups and other people in the private sector work together with
government at all of its levels to effectively deal with the issue of crime.
Effective advocacy before Congress is another example. The AARP
has done such a good job at that. We share many common goals and when an issue is
not directly on point for one of us there still may be a role for both of us as we look at
I know that health care and health care fraud are one of your principal
concerns with the Department of Justice. Let me assure you that combating health
care fraud is one of my highest priorities. First, I will use all available tools --
criminal, civil and administrative -- use them as wisely as I can to detect, investigate
and punish health care fraud.
Secondly, I am undertaking aggressive efforts to prevent the fraud in
the first place through partnerships in industry to promote compliance with federal and
state law and through efforts that empower patients to better understand the health care
system and to report potential fraud to appropriate authorities.
In addition, we are trying to look at cases that have occurred where we
have secured a conviction, and, if you will, do an "autopsy" on the case to see what
problem, what process permitted the crime to happen in the first place, who was able
to do this, and why were they able to do it without somebody checking it, and try to
use what we learn to work with the industry to develop the processes, to provide the
checks and balances that can prevent it from happening in the first place.
There is a great deal of effort involved, but there is huge problem and
there is much to do. Some forms of health care fraud and abuse pose a direct threat to
the health and safety of patients, particularly those in nursing homes and those who
would receive home health care. Ferreting out such fraud and abuse is one of our top
priorities within the overall health care fraud program.
I would like to put a footnote on that. I was a prosecutor in Miami for
15 years. We pioneered some efforts at child abuse prosecutions, we pioneered efforts
to investigate child abuse, minimizing the impact on the child.
But as we did this, one of the doctors that I talked to said, "I'm
interested in elderly abuse. I am working at the University of Miami to address this
issue. We would like to work with you. This is an area that has got to be addressed
for the future separate and apart from the fraud issue, but how we do it and what we
do, and I would be grateful for your suggestions in that regard."
Financial losses to fraud are a major problem as well. Recently, and I
have heard different figures used, I think it is very important as we deal with these
legislative issues and as we convince Congress of the rightness of our position that we
are careful on the figures we use.
I have heard people talk about $100 billion. I find no foundation for
that. But recently the HHS inspector general reported, "The Medicare Program alone
has overpaid hospitals, doctors and other health care providers by as much as $23
Now, this is not all outright fraud, and we should be careful when we
use that figure. But I think it makes it clear that there are billions of dollars involved
in outright fraud.
My focus is not just on the billions lost to fraud, waste and abuse. I am
also concerned about the need to reduce fraud in order the promote public confidence
in the Medicare and the Medicaid Programs. These programs provide essential health
care to millions of our nation's elderly and disadvantaged citizens, and public
confidence in the integrity of these programs is essential to ensuring their vitality in
the decades ahead.
We are trying to work together with the FBI, with the HHS inspector
general, with state authorities to make sure that we have a comprehensive investigative
effort underway, that we leave no stone unturned, that we don't duplicate efforts when
we have very limited resources in certain situations, and that we bring our efforts
together in a fully coordinated way.
There are other issues that we have shared and you have been a valiant
ally in addressing and that, for example, is the whole issue of telemarketing fraud.
But, ladies and gentlemen, when we talk about telemarketing we are now talking about
Internet marketing and we are talking about marketing from around the world as the
nation's of the world become, and the people of the world become more articulate on
We have a lot to do and we look forward to working with you in
continued efforts to dealing with this whole problem, both in telemarketing and on the
I would like to raise another subject with you. I about a year ago saw
an article of a person whom we had convicted of a scam of home repair, a home repair
scam. It occurred to me that we could do so much if we worked with the state
attorneys general and with AARP in identifying patterns of fraud across state lines,
for example, in warning people of fraud that might occur after a natural disaster such
as a hurricane, and in warning people of patterns of fraud.
I am pleased to say that our fraud section in the Criminal Division is
now looking to see what we can put on the Justice Department web page that doesn't
duplicate what others do, but provides warnings and provides understanding that can
help you and others educate the community about what they should be on the lookout
But as I have indicated, there are times when it may not be your direct
priority, but we share priorities that can enable us to do so much more. America's
older citizens have earned the right to be safe at home, when they go to the grocery
store, on the streets of their community and in their neighborhood. Better health care
alone will not improve the life of the senior citizen.
Now, because of the efforts of so many people, because of President
Clinton's efforts to put 100,000 police officers on the streets, through so much effort
by citizens and community after community I have seen with my own eyes the person
who said, "I have lived in the same neighborhood for 60 years. I always used to feel I
could come out and go to the store and go to meetings, but for a long time now I just
haven't felt safe. I am beginning to feel safe now so I can go down to that community
meeting and I can give them a piece of my mind about what we think needs to be
These same people can go volunteer at an elementary school as a
teacher's aide for two mornings a week. One of my favorite stories is of a man who
stood up in a meeting one day and Miami and said, "Do you know what I do three
mornings a week for three hours each morning?"
I said, "No, sir."
He said, "Do you know how old I am?"
I said, "No, sir."
He said, "Well, I'm 84 years old," and he said, "I volunteer as a
teacher's aide for a first grade teacher."
The lady standing next to him was a young woman who stood up and
said, "I'm the first grade teacher for whom he volunteers. The kids with learning
disabilities can't wait for their time with him because he has the patience of Job, and
the kids with gifted talents can't wait for their time with him because he gives them an
opportunity to explore regions that I with 30 people in the class can't possibly begin to
There is much that can be done, but we still have got to do more.
Because juvenile crime, though down for the first time, is still a potentially explosive
problem because the number of young people will increase significantly in the next
five to ten years.
I have never met a person who would rather have had the crime
committed than have prevented it in the first place. I think what we have got to
explain to all concerned -- appropriators, state legislators and others -- is that there are
crime prevention programs that work that make a difference.
We can't simply fill the jails endlessly and hope to really make a mark.
We cannot build our way out of the crime problem. I think it is important that a young
person who commits a serious crime, a violent crime, anybody who hurts others ought
to know that they are going to be effectively punished.
You can't put a gun up beside somebody's head and think you are going
to get away with it. For those who commit less serious crimes, I think they have got to
know that there is going to be an effective intervention with follow through and that
there will be consequences if they don't follow through.
But there are a whole group of young people out there who want to
contribute, who want to make a difference but who are left unattended after school and
in the evenings who do not have supervision of any kind and who are left to their own
devices. They don't have role models. They don't have places to go.
When I go to a community, I try oftentimes to talk to a young person
who is in trouble or who has been in trouble. Again and again I get the same poignant
response when I ask the question, "If you were the attorney general, what would you
do to have prevented this crime from happening in the first place?"
These young people say, "Give me somebody to talk to, some adult
who knows how hard it is to grow up in this nation today, somebody who can give me
a pat on the back when I deserve it and tell me when I have done wrong and hold me
accountable when I deserve it, and something to do in the afternoons and evenings, not
just sports but some activity that can give me an opportunity to learn relevant material
that can help me for the future."
It may be work at a computer bank all afternoon until you are proficient
on that computer when you didn't have the chance in class that day. Or, it may be a
musical, an artistic effort such as I observed in Miami Beach last Friday with the
Miami Beach Performing Arts Academy, which gives to young people the chance to
play as long as they want on Saturday until they get it right. I heard some brilliant
musicians who might otherwise be in trouble.
As President Clinton pointed out in his "State of the Union Address"
last week, most serious juvenile felonies occur in the five hours after school closes.
Police chiefs have confirmed that again and again for me. If a community has an
effective after-school program with adult role models, mentors we can prevent crimes
from occurring in the first place.
I want to make sure that Congress appropriates monies not just to get
tough, but to prevent the crime and to prevent the victimization in the first place. I
hope that this will be a priority for AARP. Keeping the streets safe means that those
who may have a little more trouble getting around can feel far more secure.
There is so much to do. People talk about some of the problems we
face in Washington, but we have seen things happen in these last five years. I have
been very gratified about what is happening in communities across America. But I
have been particularly gratified by your contribution, whether it be in telemarketing
fraud and assisting the FBI or whether it be in suggestions or ideas.
So I will close with a question and hope to hear from you. If you were
the Attorney General of the United States, what would you do that I am not doing or
not do that I am doing?
MS. KING: I think you got a vote of confidence.
MS. BUSALIS: Thank you for that excellent presentation. We know
that there has been an increasing number of the amount of fraud that perpetrated
against our citizens, and particularly our older citizens, that comes from across the
borders. There are telemarketing fraud operations in cities like Vancouver, Toronto,
Montreal, besides Las Vegas and Los Angeles. We were wondering what the
Department of Justice is doing to stem that tide?
MS. RENO: First of all, that is happening, and I will tell you what we
are doing to stem that tide. But you haven't seen anything yet, because that is
telemarketing. Just wait until everybody learns about the Internet. That is the reason
we have to look even further ahead down the line to see what we do to prevent people
from being victimized as victims of crime on the Internet.
But about three years ago, I visited my counterpart in Canada, the
minister of justice, and I also visited -- I have two counterparts -- and the solicitor
general. Our portfolios are not exactly the same. One of the areas that I raised with
them was the whole issue of telemarketing fraud, that this was not something that
respected our border and that we were going to have to work together.
We have had a good working relationship with the Canadians. There is
now a new minister of justice and a new solicitor general. We have had a chance to
renew our commitment and we are continuing in that effort, but I think we have a
larger issue to face.
MR. TULL: Ms. Reno, I will answer your question by saying I think
you are doing very well. But I do have a question. The question is this, You had
mentioned earlier in your remarks that the Internet was becoming an increasing source
of fraudulent activity. In addition to the information that you post on your website,
can you give us an idea of what the Justice Department is currently doing to combat
MS. RENO: One of the things that we are trying to do is to work with
the industry to see how we can work together to address the problem. But what I am
trying to do in the larger sense goes to a number of issues.
I suspect that one of the things that I am discovering is that you are
either under 20 or over 65, and either group is far more articulate, sophisticated and
fluent on cybercrime issues or cyber issues than us in the middle.
I came to Washington, however, concerned because a number of people
from my past experience had said law enforcement is not prepared to deal with the
issue of cybercrime, whether it be fraud on the Internet or somebody, a hacker, sitting
in a kitchen in St. Petersburg, Russia, stealing from a bank.
We have developed an intellectual property and computer crime
section. The FBI has beefed up its efforts, both with respect to child pornography,
consumer fraud, the equivalent of telemarketing fraud, and we are trying to prepare
ourselves to match it.
One of the issues that we have faced is the fact that boundaries won't
make any difference, and one of the important capacities that we must have is the
ability to get to identify the site and identify the person conveying the fraud through
We, the P8, who are the big eight industrial nations of the world, had a
very good meeting here in early December in which we addressed computer crime,
and how these eight great nations would work together in the identification in early
24-hour response nation by nation in common laws that would permit us to focus on
this. So we are making some progress, but we will continue to welcome any
suggestions that this group has as to what more that we can be doing.
MR. TULL: Thank you.
MR. CHRISTENSEN: Thank you for being with us. We appreciate
your remarks. I am Dave Christensen from Southern Illinois.
You spoke very positively about the adult mentor program as it relates
to juvenile crime and said that these people help a lot with encouragement and just
somebody to talk to, and it occurred to me that is what parents are for. I wonder how
you might -- what efforts you see to relate parents into programs that might help with
MS. RENO: One of the problems that exists today is that there are a
large number of single parents who care deeply about their children and try to be as
involved as they can, but have got to work to make ends meet -- or both parents have
to work to make ends meet as you see more people having more, but more people
having less. Thus, for the best intentioned parent there is the need for that after-school
supervision for the accountable parent.
But the president, for example, has made some interesting suggestions
that I am very gratified by suggesting that we expand the Family and Medical Leave
Act to include the opportunity for parents to spend time with their kids at school.
Because principals and teachers tell me one of the greatest problems they face is
getting the parent to school to become involved with the child's problems. I think this
parenting leave effort can make a big difference.
I had a law, my law, because I had the flexibility, but as state attorney
in Dade County I developed the concept of an educational leave, where parents could
take a certain amount of time during the school year to go to their child's school either
for parent's conferences or participation, and I think we need to expand that.
At the Justice Department, we are talking about a number of initiatives
that have been implemented, some more so than others for job sharing and computer
telecommuting so that you can write a brief at home, if you are disciplined, as easily as
you can write it at the office, with access to libraries by virtue of computers and such.
So there is much underway.
But you still have just the basic economic fact that two parents in many
two-parent families both have to work to provide for their children and to provide for
that college education, and just for the necessities of life. We are going to have to deal
The president's initiative for child care is a great step forward, but there
are going to be some youngsters even with child care opportunities that are going to
need more in terms of the mentoring, in terms of truancy prevention, in terms of
learning how to resolve conflicts without knives and guns and fists.
MS. KING: Dave?
MR. STOCKI: Yes. I don't know if you are aware of this or not,
perhaps you are, but Attorney General Jim Doyle convened a group of volunteer
senior citizens to screen the Internet to find health care fraud and other frauds that are
being perpetrated out there.
I was one of the four that answered the call and believe me it was
sickening to look at the number of sites in which you could get what appeared to be
fraudulent arthritis cures, for example. Perhaps, if you don't already know about the
effort or have a cooperative arrangement, that might be something that could help
MS. RENO: I had heard that Jim was interested in starting that. He
and I have had an excellent working relationship, because I have tried to reach out to
the state attorneys general to make sure that we form a partnership, that we don't
duplicate their efforts, that we back them up. I know he and I think Scott Harshburger
in Massachusetts have both been addressing issues relating to elderly issues and fraud
issues and how we can work together on that. I will give Jim a call.
MS. KING: Dudley?
MR. LESSER: It would appear that a great number of sources getting
information across would be in the schools in consumer fraud, for example, so that
from a very early age as you go through the schooling system you begin to understand.
Are there any efforts along these areas?
MS. RENO: I can't speak for the individual schools, but I can tell you
something that we unveiled the other day in conjunction with the Department of
Education. It was a kid's web page in response to the president's suggestion that each
department see what it could do to make its information available to young people on
the web in a way that they could understand it and appreciate it.
So we had a number of different issues, some of it was substantive:
how the FBI does DNA; how fingerprints work, what is involved; how does the
polygraph work. I saw it and I said, "This sounds awfully complicated."
It was wonderful because we had some young people there of a variety
of ages from here [indicating] to here. Kids understand so much if it is a subject that
interests them and you put it in terms that they can appreciate, and I was really
We have on that web page the do's and don'ts of the Internet. I think it
is best said by one of the persons who has been a leader in the whole information age
said to me, "I think my 13-year-old daughter is terribly adept on the computer, but I
don't think she knows what she can and can't do. She knows she can't rob a bank. She
knows she can't steal $10 from somebody. But does she know that she can't go into
somebody else's password or behind somebody else's password?"
There are so many things, so we have tried to address some of the do's
and don'ts. We have tried to give them information about civil rights, about what the
Justice Department does. Again, I think the schools and all of those of us who want to
reach out to children can make a big difference as we follow the president's directive.
We also asked the kids -- we had tried to provide focus groups for the
young people so that we could make sure that we were addressing issues that would
interest them and would be useful. We told them after the unveiling, "Now, we want
you to come back to us with suggestions as to how we can improve it."
MS. KING: John?
MR. McMANUS: Madam Attorney General, it is a privilege to have
you here. We are thankful to you, and I know I speak on behalf of my colleagues
when I say that we hope you will be with us for many years here in Washington.
My question to you is a question of mergers and acquisitions. You see
a tremendous amount of mergers in the United States, and it is especially happening
rather rapidly in the utility industry. Would you like to comment on that issue, and
how it affects the consumer?
MS. RENO: Well, I didn't take a course in antitrust in law school.
MS. RENO: I don't profess to be an expert in the area at all; although, I
have learned an awful lot in the last five years. Anne Bingaman, my first assistant
attorney general for antitrust, and now Joel Klein have both been great educators for
me. I have tried to back them up.
Because in terms of public policy and American history I believe very,
very strongly in the mission of the Antitrust Division, and particularly in efforts to
ensure vigorous competition not just here but around the world. I think we have new
implications that are very important for us in the international consequences, and we
are working with authorities in other nations to address the issue.
With respect to the utility issue, I think if you look at it on a case-by-case basis, we take it on a case-by-case basis and look at it and call the shots as we see
them. Joel will come in to me and say, "This is what we are going to do, and this is
why we are doing it. We can't approve this merger. We can approve this."
It is something that I follow carefully, because it means a great deal to
me, but it is something that we are both trying to make sure is implemented based on
the evidence and the law.
MS. KING: Jean?
MS. CANJA: Ms. Reno, thank you for being here. I am Tess Canja
from Florida. I can tell you that Floridians are particularly proud of our attorney
MS. RENO: Well, some of them are prejudiced one way and the other.
MS. CANJA: I have a question about funding. A lot is going on now
and there have been a lot in recent legislation about fighting fraud. We have had some
discussion about in Medicare, for example, and the hotline and, you know, is there
enough money for these things. But do you find that there is sufficient funding for
MS. RENO: With the new initiatives, I think Donna Shalala and I
would both agree what is very important for us right now is a lot of new agents are
coming on board. A lot of new agents are coming on board. A lot of new inspectors
general are coming on board, investigators are coming on board in HHS.
Our great challenge right now is not so much numbers as training these
new investigators, new agents, in health care fraud investigation and how to do it.
They are quick studies. They are very, very able and are going to be wonderful agents.
But that is, frankly, one of the major issues that we face now.
What we are trying to do in the Department of Justice is address it on a
regional basis or on a district basis so that prosecutors and agents can be trained
together to ensure not only that they have the skills, but they learn how to work with
each other. That is proving very effective.
MS. KING: Frances?
MS. CLARK: Frances Clark from Pennsylvania. Thank you so very
much for that wonderful message that you gave us. I am particularly interested in
what you said about the intervention or the prevention of the youth of our children
getting into trouble, into crime. Can you share with me any information that I can take
back home to use to put into place to stop just that?
MS. RENO: Yes. If I may, I will stop by your seat there and get your
address so that I can send you some additional information. Here is what I would
suggest. Anybody that is interested, my number is 514-2002. If you can leave word,
we will get good, specific information to you about what is working and what is not
working. But let me give you some general points of view.
What I have discovered in Miami is that there are so many people that
want to volunteer, but oftentimes they are limited by transportation and they don't feel
comfortable driving across town. I have always suggested that you look within your
neighborhood as to what can be done.
In almost every neighborhood, there is going to be an elementary
school or a junior high school. And tutoring, a good tutor is one of the great, great
people. How you get a young person who is falling behind interested, how you get
him moving and going at the subject without putting him down and making him feel
stupid is one of the great, great challenges of the great teachers, and I find that a
person who really wants to be involved can oftentimes be one of the best at that.
Secondly, there can be all sorts of programs. I mean, just in terms of
participating in the community meetings to determine what is going to happen to the
park, of trying to figure out -- I have been to community meetings where neighbors
were saying, "I want those kids out of the park. They don't belong there."
The marvelous person from AARP could go there and say, "Wait a
minute, we can solve this for everybody. The kids can use the park this way, and you
can have the benefit of the park from this perspective." The peacemaker, the person
who is retired who has time is oftentimes one of the world's great peacemakers.
Support for the police to the community police officer, "That kid down
the street is not a bad kid. I think he is getting in trouble. Why don't you go down and
talk to him and see if you can't pull him back from the brink before it is too late?"
Being the eyes and ears of the police officer, not throwing a kid in, if you will, but
helping that police officer. Those are just some of the initial ideas.
One of the things -- I go back to a point that I made -- I am mightily
impressed about the steps being taken in America and I am proud of steps being taken
in the Department of Justice to teach us to resolve our conflicts without expensive
trials, to teach us how to resolve conflict without knives and guns and fists.
We have developed an alternative dispute resolution program in the
Department of Justice that teaches our lawyers how to negotiate, how to use
mediation, how to use arbitration, and it is proving really, really successful.
The major courts of appeal have ADR components. Now, when I went
to law school, I had Roger Fisher for civil procedure. Roger Fisher is now the guru of
teaching people how to negotiate lawsuits. We can use the same theory with police in
the community, with teachers in the classroom and with kids on the playground.
Again, I have seen situations where an elderly person is the best teacher
of conflict resolution I know. The one thing I would urge is find something that is in
your neighborhood so you don't have to worry about the transportation. Make sure
you consult with the people involved to make sure that you are doing it the right way.
And the better programs, the mentoring programs and the tutoring programs, are those
that give you some thoughtful training up front.
Then find out what you want to do, and enjoy doing it. If it is the first
grade, enjoy the first grade. Or, if you want to teach junior high school English, enjoy
that. But just enjoy what you are doing because it is so fun to see the kids faces come
alive when the enthusiasm of the tutor is conveyed.
MS. CLARK: Thank you so much.
MS. KING: Thank you very, very much.
MS. RENO: With that, I think I had better go.
[Whereupon, at 11:00 a.m., the speech was concluded.]
* * * * *