White-collar crime refers to financially motivated nonviolent crime committed by business and government professionals. Within criminology, it was first defined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939 as "a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation". Typical white-collar crimes include fraud, bribery, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, embezzlement, cybercrime, copyright infringement, money laundering, identity theft, and forgery.
Modern criminology generally rejects a limitation of the term by reference, rather classifies the type of crime and the topic:
- By the type of offense, e.g., property crime, economic crime, and other corporate crimes like environmental and health and safety law violations. Some crime is only possible because of the identity of the offender, e.g., transnational money laundering requires the participation of senior officers employed in banks. But the FBI has adopted the narrow approach, defining white-collar crime as "those illegal acts which are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and which are not dependent upon the application or threat of physical force or violence" (1989, 3). This approach is relatively pervasive in the United States; the record-keeping does not adequately collect data on the socioeconomic status of offenders which, in turn, makes research and policy evaluation problematic. While the true extent and cost of white-collar crime are unknown, the FBI and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimate the annual cost to the United States to fall between $300 and $660 billion.
- By the type of offender, e.g., by social class or high socioeconomic status, the occupation of positions of trust or profession, or academic qualification, researching the motivations for criminal behavior, e.g., greed or fear of loss of face if economic difficulties become obvious. Shover and Wright (2000) point to the essential neutrality of a crime as enacted in a statute. It almost inevitably describes conduct in the abstract, not by reference to the character of the persons performing it. Thus, the only way that one crime differs from another is in the backgrounds and characteristics of its perpetrators. Most if not all white-collar offenders are distinguished by lives of privilege, much of it with origins in class inequality.
- By organizational culture rather than the offender or offense which overlaps with organized crime. Appelbaum and Chambliss offer a twofold definition:
- Occupational crime which occurs when crimes are committed to promote personal interests, say, by altering records and overcharging, or by the cheating of clients by professionals.
- Organizational or corporate crime which occurs when corporate executives commit criminal acts to benefit their company by overcharging or price fixing, false advertising, etc.
Relationship to other types of crime
The types of crime committed are a function of what is available to the potential offender. Thus, those employed in relatively unskilled environments and living in inner-city areas have fewer opportunities to exploit than those who work in situations where large financial transactions occur and live in areas where there is relative prosperity. Blue-collar crime tends to be more obvious and thus attracts more active police attention such as vandalism or shoplifting. In contrast, white-collar employees can incorporate legitimate and criminal behavior, thus making themselves less obvious when committing the crime. Therefore, blue-collar crime will more often use physical force, whereas in the corporate world, the identification of a victim is less obvious and the issue of reporting is complicated by a culture of commercial confidentiality to protect shareholder value. It is estimated that a great deal of white-collar crime is undetected or, if detected, it is not reported.
Corporate crime deals with the company as a whole. The crime benefits the investors or the individuals who are in high positions in the company or corporation. The relationship white-collar crime has with corporate crime is that they are similar because they both are involved within the business world. Their difference is that white-collar crime benefits the individual involved, and corporate crime benefits the company or the corporation.
One well-known insider trading case in the United States is the ImClone stock trading case. In December 2001, top-level executives sold their shares in ImClone Systems, a pharmaceutical company that manufactured an anti-cancer drug. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated numerous top-level executives, as well as Martha Stewart, a friend of ImClone's former chief executive who had also sold her shares at the same time. The SEC reached a settlement in 2005.
The negotiation of agreements between a state and a corporation will be at a relatively senior level on both sides, this is almost exclusively a white-collar "situation" which offers the opportunity for crime. Although law enforcement claims to have prioritized white-collar crime, evidence shows that it continues to be a low priority.
When senior levels of a corporation engage in criminal activity using the company this is sometimes called control fraud.
Organized transnational crime
Organized transnational crime is organized criminal activity that takes place across national jurisdictions, and with advances in transportation and information technology, law enforcement officials and policymakers have needed to respond to this form of crime on a global scale. Some examples include human trafficking, money laundering, drug smuggling, illegal arms dealing, terrorism, and cybercrime. Although it is impossible to precisely gauge transnational crime, the Millennium Project, an international think tank, assembled statistics on several aspects of transnational crime in 2009:
- World illicit trade of almost $780 billion
- Counterfeiting and piracy of $300 billion to $1 trillion
- Global drug trade of $321 billion
Individuals may commit crime during employment or unemployment. The two most common forms are theft and fraud. Theft can be of varying degrees, from a pencil to furnishings to a car. Insider trading, the trading of stock by someone with access to publicly unavailable information, is a type of fraud.
In the United States, sentences for white-collar crimes may include a combination of imprisonment, fines, restitution, community service, disgorgement, probation, or other alternative punishment. These punishments grew harsher after the Jeffrey Skilling and Enron scandal, when the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush, defining new crimes and increasing the penalties for crimes such as mail and wire fraud. In other countries, such as China, white-collar criminals can be given the death penalty. Certain countries like Canada consider the relationship between the parties to be a significant feature on sentence when there is a breach of trust component involved. Questions about sentencing disparity in white-collar crime continue to be debated.
- Accounting scandals
- Con man
- Corporate crime
- Franchise fraud
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Industrial espionage
- IRS Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID)
- Money laundering
- Mortgage fraud
- Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI)
- Organi-cultural deviance
- Organized crime
- Penny stock scam
- Sarbanes–Oxley Act
- Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
- Securities fraud
- Terrorist financing
- United States Postal Inspection Service
- United States Secret Service
Further reading and references
- Appelbaum, Richard P. & Chambliss, William J. (1997). Sociology: A Brief Introduction. New York: Longman. ISBN 0-673-98279-3
- Barnett, Cynthia. (Undated). The Measurement of White-Collar Crime Using Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Data.
- Clarke, Ronald V. (1997). Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies (2nd edition). New York: Criminal Justice Press. ISBN 0-911577-38-6
- Dillon, Eamon Dilloninvestigates.com, The Fraudsters – How Con Artists Steal Your Money Chapter 5, Pillars of Society, published September 2008 by Merlin Publishing, Ireland ISBN 978-1-903582-82-4
- Friedrichs, David O. (2003) Trusted Criminals: White Collar Crime in Contemporary Society, Wadsworth. ISBN 0-495-00604-1
- Geis, G., Meier, R. & Salinger, L. (eds.) (1995). White-collar Crime: Classic & Contemporary Views. NY: Free Press.
- Green, Stuart P. (2006). Lying, Cheating, and Stealing: A Moral Theory of White Collar Crime. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Koller, Cynthia A. (2012). "White Collar Crime in Housing: Mortgage Fraud in the United States." El Paso, TX: LFB Scholarly. ISBN 1593325347. ISBN 978-1593325343
- Lea, John. (2001). Crime as Governance: Reorienting Criminology.
- Leap, Terry L. (2007) Dishonest Dollars: The Dynamics of White-Collar Crime. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-4520-0
- Newman, Graeme R. & Clarke, Ronald V. (2003). Superhighway Robbery: Preventing E-commerce Crime. Portland, Or: Willan Publishing. ISBN 1-84392-018-2
- Rolón, Darío N. Control, vigilancia, y respuesta penal en el ciberespacio, Latinamerica´s new security Thinking, Clacso 2014.
- Reiman, J. (1998). The Rich get Richer and the Poor get Prison. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
- Pontell, H. & Tillman, R. (1998). Profit Without Honor: White-collar Crime and the Looting of America. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Shapiro, Susan P. (1990). "Collaring the Crime, not the Criminal: Reconsidering the Concept of White-collar Crime", American Sociological Review 55: 346–65.
- Simon, D. & Eitzen, D. (1993). Elite Deviance. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
- Simon, D. & Hagan, F. (1999). White-collar Deviance. Boston: Allyn & Bacon
- Shover, Neal & Wright, John Paul (eds.) (2000). Crimes of Privilege: Readings in White-Collar Crime. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513621-7
- Sutherland, Edwin Hardin (1949). White Collar Crime. New York: Dryden Press.
- Thiollet, J.P. (2002). Beau linge et argent sale — Fraude fiscale internationale et blanchiment des capitaux, Paris, Anagramme ed. ISBN 2-914571-17-8
- U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (1989). White Collar Crime: A Report to the Public. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
- "FBI — White-Collar Crime". FBI.
- Friedrichs, David O. (2009). Trusted Criminals: White Collar Crime In Contemporary Society (4 ed.). Wadsworth Publishing. p. 50. ISBN 978-0495600824. citing Kane and Wall, 2006, p. 5
- Appelbaum, Richard & Chambliss, William J. (1997). Sociology: A Brief Introduction. New York: Longman Pub Group. p. 117. ISBN 9780673982797.
- Clarke, R. V. G. (1997). Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies (2 ed.). Harrow and Heston. ISBN 9780911577389.
- O'Grady, William (2011). Crime in Canadian Context: Debates and Controversies (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195433784. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
- Anderson, Jenny (20 January 2005). "S.E.C. Settles ImClone Insider Trading Case". New York Times. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
- Anzalone, Charles (28 April 1991). "White-Collar Crime Has Become Priority of Law Enforcement". Buffalo News.
- "State's white collar convicts get lighter sentences". California Watch.
- Rubino, Esq. PA, Frank. "White Collar Crime - An Overview". Retrieved 30 January 2012.
- "Penalties for White Collar Crime". Blumberg & Associates.
- "Is China's White-Collar Death Penalty Fair?". The American Lawyer. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
- "What is Breach of Trust in Canada?". Alexander Ejsmont. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- Podger, Prof. Ellen S. (21 February 2007). "Throwing Away the Key". Yale Law Journal. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
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