White collar crime

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Last updated: April 3, 2019

White collar crime refers to crime that is nonviolent which id committed for financial benefits within commercial situations (Sutherland, 1949). The phrase was coined by Edwin Sutherland during a speech addressing the American Sociological Society in 1939 where he defined the phrase as a crime that is committed by a person who is of a high social class and therefore respectable during the course of his occupation. The phrase has also been defined as the abuse of a lawful occupational responsibility which has been regulated by law (Croall, 2001). In the United States alone, white collar crime has been found to cost the American economy an excess of $300 billion per annum.White collar crime has been found to overlap with corporate crime since most of the opportunities to carryout such a crime are more available to individuals who may be professional working in corporations and belong to the high class of people in society. Examples of white collar crimes include fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, insider trading, bribery, antitrust violations, money laundering, computer crime, counterfeiting and economic espionage.

Sutherland came up with the term during his study of the connection between crime and the high society with the goal of proving a relation between social status, money, and the probability of going to jail due to a while collar crime (Friedrichs, 2003). This was as a result of the increase in individuals of high social classes going to jail after the great depression as they tried to have financial benefits using their positions. White collar criminals are opportunistic as they tend to take advantage of the situation to benefit financially.Dimensions of White Collar CrimeThere are three main dimensions of white collar crime. These dimensions arise due to the limitations that arise from the phrase white collar crime within the field of criminology hence the need for a classification that is based on the three dimensions. The first classification is based on the type of offense that has been committed. This dimension addresses the type of white collar crime that has been committed. The types of white collar crime include fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, insider trading, bribery, antitrust violations, money laundering, computer crime, counterfeiting and economic espionage.

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The Federal Bureau of Investigations adopted a rather narrower approach towards the types of white collar crime by developing a new definition for white collar crime. Its definition states that white collar crimes are those unlawful acts that are characterized by concealment, deceit or a violation of trust that take place without the application or use of any form of physical force, threats, or acts of violence.The second classification is based on the type of the criminal. The type of criminal is identified using such characteristics as one’s social class, academic qualifications, motivation behind the criminal act, the occupation of the criminal, and the position held (Leap, 2007). Under this classification, a crime will differ from another based on the characteristics of the offender as well as other background information such as the level of education of the offender, the motivation for committing the crime, and social class.

As such, the conduct and character of the person committing the crime is of importance during this classification as people come from different background and social classes within society.The third classification is based on the organizational culture of an organization under which the offender carries out the criminal act. This classification is based on the fact that most of the opportunities to commit white collar are easily accessible to white collar workers. Most of these employees work within organizations both in the public sector and private sector. This classification on organizational culture takes two major approaches. The first is occupational crime that occurs when a white collar crime is committed in order to promote the offenders personal interests.

The second approach is organizational crime that occurs when the executives of an organization commit a criminal act so as to benefit their own organization.Specialized skills needed to investigate white collar crimeThe nature of white collar crime calls for the use of specialized skills so as to be able to carry out conclusive investigations. This is because white collar crime does not involve the use of physical force or any form of violence as opposed to blue collar crime that is rather obvious due to the frequent use of threats and violence and therefore easily attracts the attention of police and people near to the scene of the crime.

Conversely white collar crime involves employees who are opportunistic in nature taking their time to learn how to utilize these opportunities. In addition, these are individuals who are well educated and intelligent and can therefore convince their victims that they posses honest credentials (Shapiro, 1995).They are also affluent having good social standing within the society. It is therefore easy for these people to attain jobs that allow them to have access to large amounts of money. As such there are specialized skills that enable law enforcement groups to identify such criminal acts. The main skill required in investigating white collar crime is forensic accounting. Forensic accounting is a branch of accounting that is a combination of both auditing and investigative procedures and activities that are used to identify any kind of financial discrepancies that could be used to support a litigation process in a court of law as well as to report fraud.Forensic accountant usually analyze the financial books of an organization by ensuring that the information contained therein is accurate and trustworthy (Swanson, 2009).

This is followed by an interpretation of this information so as to come up with well informed summaries of this information. A forensic audit involves a careful examination any financial information that needs to be ascertained as being truthful. A forensic investigation involves the process of identifying what kind of evidence is required and the use of exceptional investigative skills to gather evidential information  that are used to   Forensic accountants are used in most organizations to assist in the development of effective financial softwares that could be used in achieving a better analysis of financial information. They also assist law enforcement agencies to clearly identify fraudulent activities and in most cases appear in court to testify as expert witnesses.Social foundations for white collar crimeThere exist societal foundations for white collar crime. This is especially so as a result of Sutherland’s hypothesis that white collar crimes are committed by persons who are of a high social class. One of the social causes of white collar crime is the need for power. Most of the individuals who carry out white collar crimes usually want to acquire power within society as they end up having financial gains that enable them to a say in the activities of society.

Human societies are characterized by power struggles within the members of the society with individuals with power being able to dictate how things are done within that society. In addition, the acquisition of power enables individuals to attain positions of leadership in society as well as an access to material wealth that the other members of the society do not have access to.The second societal foundation of white collar crime is status. Social stratification has led to the creation of societal classes within the society. The members of a certain class have a different social status than that class that is above or below them. In addition, this is a concept expressed in the American dream where individuals strive to make their lives to be better than that of their parents by moving from the lower social status that their parents belonged to a higher one. As such, and individual who is in a lower class and is in a position that presents him or her with an opportunity to carry out a fraudulent activity will do so as to gain financial benefits.

This in turn will enable him or her to move to a higher class and therefore enjoy the privileges that individuals in that class have access to.Economic foundations for white collar crimeThere exist economic foundations of white collar crime as well. The need to acquire material wealth is one of the driving forces for carrying out white collar crimes. Every person would want to have a good and comfortable home by the beach, the latest car model, dine in the best hotels, own various forms of investments and any other good thing in the world. For one to acquire these things, one has to have the necessary finances that will enable him or her to purchase them. In committing a white collar crime, an individual is able to have access to large sums of money that he or she could use to satisfy his needs for material possessions (Pontell & Tillman, 1998).The second economic foundation is for white collar crime is privileges.

The members of a certain class enjoy different advantages that the members of another class can not enjoy since the different classes are usually endowed with differing resources and privileges. Individuals who commit white collar crime end up having numerous privileges in society as a result of the financial benefits that they acquire from their fraudulent activities.How knowledge of these foundations contributes to resolution of the crimePossessing the knowledge on the various foundations of white collar crime is crucial as it assists law enforcement agencies and other concerned parties such as the shareholders who have invested in an organization to establish resolutions to this crime. Being able to understand the reasons as to why an individual has committed a white collar crime lays the basis for developing policies and measures that will counter these causes (Shover & Wright, 2000). Authorities will be able to come up with rules and regulations that will address the various discrepancies that exist within society in a fair manner so that individuals will not have the urge to carry out such criminal activities.

In addition, they will be able to come up with innovative ways of identifying white collar crimes that are perpetrated due to these social and economic foundations of white collar crime.ReferencesCroall, H. (2001). Understanding White Collar Crime. Buckingham: Open University    Press.

Friedrichs, D. O. (2003) Trusted Criminals: White Collar Crime in Contemporary          Society. California: Wadsworth.Leap, T. L. (2007) Dishonest Dollars: The Dynamics of White-Collar Crime.

Ithaca:      Cornell University PressPontell, H. & Tillman, R. (1998).

Profit Without Honor: White-collar Crime and the      Looting of America. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Shapiro, B. (1995).

“Collaring the Crime, not the Criminal: Reconsidering the Concept of          White-collar Crime”, American Sociological Review 55: 346-65.Shover, N. & Wright, J. (2000). Crimes of Privilege: Readings in White-Collar Crime.   Oxford: Oxford University Press.Sutherland, E. H.

(1949). White Collar Crime. New York: Dryden Press.Swanson, C. R. (2009).Criminal Investigation, (Tenth Edition).

New York: McGraw-Hill. 


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