White-Collar Crime

White-Collar Crime

Introduction to White-Collar Crime

White-Collar Crime, illegal acts committed by middle- or upper-class persons in conjunction with their ordinary occupational pursuits. The term, which has no legal significance, was first popularized by the American criminologist Edwin H. Sutherland in his classic paper “White-Collar Criminality” (1940). Sutherland argued that important sociological differences exist between conventional crimes such as burglary and murder, which are defined without reference to the social status or occupation of the perpetrator, and white-collar crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, price-fixing, antitrust violations, income-tax evasion, misuse of public funds, and abuse of political and legal powers. In general, the latter are committed by persons of relatively high social status, are intimately connected with the socially approved occupation of the perpetrator, and are treated by the authorities more leniently and inconsistently than are conventional crimes.

Historically, the chief sanctions against white-collar criminals have been loss of position and public trust, loss of a professional license, and the levying of fines. Rarely were jail sentences imposed and served. This leniency in prosecution stemmed partly from the perception that a high-status individual implicated in criminal activity was sufficiently punished by the presumed loss of social esteem or occupational prospects, or both; and partly from the fact that most white-collar crimes are so-called victimless offenses. Only recently has this attitude begun to change.

White-collar crime has become an increasing problem in the latter part of the 20th century. Authorities in the U.S., in particular, are dealing more severely with such crimes because of a growing feeling that an effort must be made to establish equality before the law for all citizens-without regard to money, power, or social status. In part, this is a result of the greater awareness of the fallibility of public officials in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.” [1]

Corporate Criminals

Federal Organizational Prosecution Agreements in the United States

This entry of the American legal encyclopedia contains a list and information on federal organizational prosecution agreements.

Corporate Criminal Liability


Notes and References

  1. Information about White-Collar Crime in the Encarta Online Encyclopedia

See Also

  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Class and Crime
  • Corporate Criminal Responsibility
  • Crime Causation
  • Economic Theories
  • Criminal Justice System
  • Economic Crime
  • Anti-Trust Offenses
  • Tax offenses
  • Federal Criminal Law Enforcement
  • Corporate Fraud
  • Corporations
  • Embezzlement
  • Money Laundering
  • Tax Evasion.

Further Reading

  • Aubert, Vilhelm. “White-Collar Crime and Social Structure.” American Journal of Sociology 58 (1952): 263-271.
  • Clinard, Marshall B., Quinney, Richard, and Yeager, Peter C. Corporate Crime. With the collaboration of Ruth B. Clinard. New York: Free Press, 1980.
  • Fisse, B., & Braithwaite, J. (1993). Corporations, crime, and accountability. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
  • Gruner, R. (2006). Corporate criminal liability and prevention. New York: Law Journal Press.
  • Simpson, S. (2002). Corporate crime, law, and social control. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Cohen, Albert K.; Lindesmith, Alfred; and Schuessler, Karl, eds. The Sutherland Papers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1956.
  • Edelhertz, Herbert. The Nature, Impact, and Prosecution of White Collar Crime. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, 1970.
  • Ermann, David M., and Lundman, Richard J. Corporate and Governmental Deviance: Problems of Organizational Behavior in Contemporary Society. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.
  • Kadish, Sanford H. “Some Observations on the Use of Criminal Sanctions in Enforcing Economic Regulations.” University of Chicago Law Review 30 (1963): 423-449.
  • Katz, Jack. “Legality and Equality: Plea Bargaining in the Prosecution of White-Collar and Common Crime.” Law and Society Review 13, no. 2 (1979): 431-459.
  • Katz, Jack. “The Social Movement against White-Collar Crime.” Criminology Review Yearbook, vol. 2. Edited by Egon Bittner and Sheldon L. Messinger. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1980, pp. 161-184.
  • Lott, John R., Jr. “Do We Punish High Income Criminals Too Heavily?” Econ. Inq. 30 (1992): 583-608.
  • Newman, Donald J. “White-collar Crime.” Law and Contemporary Problems 23 (1958): 735-753.
  • Rothman, Mitchell Lewis. “The Criminaloid Revisited.” Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1982.
  • Schrager, Laura Shill, and Short, James F., Jr. “Toward a Sociology of Organizational Crime.” Social Problems 25 (1978): 407-419.
  • Stone, Christopher D. “The Place of Enterprise Liability in the Control of Corporate Conduct.” Yale Law Journal 90 (1980): 1-77.
  • Wheeler, Stanton; Mann, Kenneth; and Sarat, Austin. Sitting in Judgment: The Sentencing of White-Collar Criminals. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988.

Guide to White-Collar Crime


2 responses to “White-Collar Crime”

  1. international

    It is often impossible to identify culpable individuals in corporate crime, because, among other legal and social factors, such crime often results from structural defects in the corporation.

  2. international

    In the United States, in January 2003, Larry D. Thompson, then–United States Deputy Attorney General, issued an internal Justice Department document entitled “Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations” but more commonly known as the “Thompson memo” to the heads of Department of Justice components and United States Attorneys. The memo advised prosecutors to consider an illustrative but not exhaustive list of nine factors dealing with alleged corporate wrongdoing: (1) the nature and seriousness of the offense, including the risk of harm to the public; (2) the pervasiveness of wrongdoing within the corporation; (3) the corporation’s history of similar conduct; (4) the corporation’s timely and voluntary disclosure of wrongdoing and its willingness to cooperate; (5) the existence and adequacy of the corporation’s compliance program; (6) the corporation’s remedial actions; (7) collateral consequences; (8) the adequacy of the prosecution of individuals responsible; and (9) the adequacy of remedies such as civil or regulatory enforcement actions.