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What is White Collar Crime?

20. What is a “White-collar Crime”?

White-collar crime characterizes crimes by criminals of high socioeconomic status or individuals who hold high-ranking, professional positions, such as corporate executives. More broadly, it includes any offense that occurs in a business or professional setting. These crimes can either be for personal gain or with the purpose of harming or benefiting the business.

•    Note: Unlike individuals, corporations cannot be put into jail. Corporations can, however, be fined and face other criminal penalties, such as involuntary dissolution.

•    Example: White-collar crimes includes: embezzling money, making electronic advances to fictitious employee,  and accepting kickbacks from suppliers.

•    Discussion: Do you feel like white-collar crimes are punished as regularly or severely as non-white-collar crimes? How do you feel about the inability to incarcerate a business entity, when these entities receive many of the same rights and procedural protections of human beings?

•    Practice Question: Gina is the Chief Financial Officer of ABC, Inc. In her role, she approves all major expenditures of corporate funds. She authorizes the use of corporate funds to pay for her vacation to the Bahamas with her family. She uses the funds for travel, lodging, gambling, and dining. She is able to conceal the expenditures by acting as disbursing and approval authority. Do Gina’s actions constitute white-collar crime?

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