Sociology Index


White-collar crimes are not conventional crimes. White-collar crimes have evolved, so too has the white-collar criminal. FBI defines the term white-collar crime as synonymous with frauds committed by business and government professionals. A 2015 study estimated that white-collar crime results in up to $600 billion in financial losses each year. A 2016 study estimated approximately 36% of businesses have been the victim of white-collar crimes in recent years. White-collar crimes are very intricate and nonviolent in nature. Occupational crimes are the illegal activities of businesses and corporations committed to further the goals of the business.

Types of collar-crimes include:

Blue-collar Crime,

Black-collar crime,

Red-collar Crime,

Pink-collar Crime,

Green-collar Crimes

White Collar Crime in a Nutshell by Ellen S. Podgor, Jerold H. Israel. White Collar Crime in a Nutshell covers specific offenses such as bank fraud, securities fraud, and computer crimes.

Today's White Collar Crime: Legal, Investigative, and Theoretical Perspectives by Hank J. Brightman, Lindsey W. Howard, is for those who are interested in teaching the field of white-collar crime. The book goes beyond discussing the basic theories and includes the legalistic aspects of white-collar crime.

Perpetrators of white-collar crime benefit greatly from the institutionalized non-enforcement practices. The process of emergence of these type of crimes was termed by Karl Marx as ‘primitive accumulation’ while in the words of Adam Smith, it was ‘previous accumulation’.

Difference between white collar crime and corporate crime

Corporate crimes are those crimes that are committed by companies through their agents against the public, and are generally carried out for the benefit of the company. White-collar crimes those crimes that are committed against companies and are carried out for personal benefit.

White-collar crime examples include fraud, tax fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, embezzlement, regulatory offences, and insider trading offences. Corporate crime are a type of white-collar crime which occurs in the course of an occupation against members of public, creditors, corporate competitors or investors for the benefit of the company, not just for the individual’s benefit. White-collar crimes when committed against the environment are called green-collar crime.

Criminologists now call white-collar crime as corporate crime or organizational crime and reserve the term white-collar crime for those illegal acts committed by people in positions of trust in white-collar jobs, such as making personal long-distance calls on an employer's account. It is this phenomenon that criminologists, sociologists, law enforcement, forensic accountants and fraud examiners must take into consideration as they investigate white-collar crimes.

Examples of White-collar Crimes

White collar crime or economic crime could include bribery, cyber crime, misappropriation, credit card fraud, identity theft, money laundering and counterfeiting. There are many other different types of white collar crimes which include misuse of entrusted funds for own's use, and Insider-Trading as when someone uses the confidential information to trade in shares of publicly held corporations.

Definition of white-collar crime

Herbert Edelhertz defined white-collar crime as: an illegal act or series of illegal acts committed by nonphysical means and by concealment and guile, to obtain money or property, to avoid payment or loss of money or property, or to obtain business or personal advantage (White-collar Crime: History of an Idea, The Evolution of White-collar Crime.

Unlike the majority of supposed blue-collar crime, where violence is usually employed against a victim or a victim’s property, white-collar crime is usually non-violent. Many who commit blue-collar crime are motivated offenders who come from disparate backgrounds and socio-economic standing. White-collar crimes always involve money, and employ embezzlement, fraud, and various other schemes that make the perpetrator wealthy through their victims’ financial loss. There is white-collar crime affecting the financial well being and livelihoods of millions each and every day, here are some of the most notorious white-collar criminals.

Understanding the Nature of White-collar Crime - Liu, Haiyan.
Abstract: Traditional criminological theorists tend not to directly address white-collar crime issues, while white-collar crime scholars haven’t been paying much attention to the development of major traditional criminological theories until very recently. While reviewing and comparing four major classical criminological theories, learning and differential association, rational choice theory and opportunity, strain and social control theory, this paper addresses the question that how these theories have been or could be used to explain the nature of white-collar crime. 

The Handbook of White-Collar Crime - Melissa L. Rorie. Professionals and criminal justice scholars have been debating the most appropriate definition for “white-collar crime” ever since Edwin Sutherland first coined the phrase in his speech to the American Sociological Society in 1939. The conceptual ambiguity surrounding the term “white-collar crime” has challenged efforts to construct a body of science that meaningfully informs policy and theory. The Handbook of White-Collar Crime reframes discussions that discusses common topics of white-collar crime, like, who the offenders are, who the victims are, how these crimes are punished.

Are White-Collar and Common Offenders the Same? An Empirical and Theoretical Critique of a Recently Proposed General Theory of Crime - MICHAEL L. BENSON, ELIZABETH MOORE. Addresses two propositions on white-collar crime derived from a general theory of crime recently proposed by Gottfredson and Travis Warner Hirschi. This theory predicts that white-collar crime offenders are as criminally versatile as common offenders. Authors investigate the criminal records of white-collar crime and common offenders and their respective levels of participation in deviant behavior. Some white-collar crime offenders are involved in crime and deviance to much the same degree as typical street criminals. A more complex causal structure is needed to account for patterns of white-collar crime and white collar offenders.

Women and White-Collar Crime - George Robb.
Abstract: In Victorian society, women of the middle class were particularly vulnerable to white-collar crimes. This article uses financial literature, newspaper debates and popular fiction to demonstrate how women were victimized by white-collar crime.


White-Collar Crime Steals Thunder From Conventional Crime, Says Police Chief.
White collar crime steals the thunder from conventional crime as it affects the financial performance of commercial organisations in the country. Capitalists, corporate executives and even criminologists argued that white collar crime took a back seat to a strong national focus on more conventional crimes.


White-Collar Crime and Criminal Careers
Specifying a Trajectory of Punctuated Situational Offending -
Nicole Leeper Piquero, Michael L. Benson.
Abstract: The typical white-collar offender greatly differs from the typical street offender and does not appear to fit into the proposed explanations of life course offending patterns. Scholars have applied the terminology of the criminal career perspective to white-collar offending. Article summarizes the intersection of white-collar crime and criminal careers, and ways in which understandings of crime over the life course can be modified to account for white-collar crime patterns.

On the Moral Structure of White-Collar Crime - Mitchell N. Berman. Abstract: White-collar crime has long presented a puzzle for theorists of the criminal law. Some white-collar crimes are puzzling and we are perplexed about why the conduct at the core of the offense is criminalized. Insider trading is like this, assuming that it counts as white-collar crime. The contours of white-collar crime offenses ordinarily do, closely track the judgments of common-sense morality. Essay challenges moral structure of white-collar crime. A satisfactory full account of the moral structure of white-collar crime law should be more sensitive than is Green's provocative and sophisticated theory.

Crimes of the Powerful: redefining white-collar crime?
Chambliss, William. Abstract: By re-defining white collar crime as "crimes of the powerful" Frank Pearce provided a much needed change in focus. Pearce's, among other things, culled from the white collar crime package those powerless individuals, like the bank clerk who embezzles, from the powerful corporate managers. It made power a central feature of studies of white collar crime.


Identifying the Links Between White-Collar Crime and Terrorism
John Kane; April Wall - Corporate Author: National White Collar Crime Center United States. Annotation: This research report identifies the types of white-collar crimes used by a group for funding mechanisms and identity deception and suggests how lessons learned from white-collar crime investigations can provide guidance for State and local police and prosecutors who may investigate terrorist groups.

White-Collar Crime Victims and the Issue of Trust - Basia Spalek.
Abstract: This paper presents the results of a study exploring relationships of trust and distrust between the offender, the victims in a particular case of white-collar crime. This work builds upon previous research in white-collar crime, which has examined the consequences of white-collar offences upon trust towards social, political and economic institutions (Sutherland, 1949; Peters & Welch, 1980; Moore & Mills, 1990; Shover et al. 1994).

After Enron will ‘Whiter than White-Collar Crime’ Still Wash? Doreen McBarnet.
In thinking about white-collar crime, it is not just crime that becomes problematic but compliance, particularly the practice of ‘creative compliance’. In the post-Enron era, can creative compliance by business still claim to be ‘whiter than white collar crime’?

Reflections on Michael, Martha, and Milberg Weiss - J. Kelly Strader
ABSTRACT: We are deeply conflicted about white collar crime and punishment. Prosecutions undermine the integrity and expressive function of our system of white-collar crime and criminalization.

White-Collar Crime and the Study of Embezzlement - GARY S. GREEN. The term "white-collar crime" has come to mean many things since Edwin Sutherland coined it more than fifty years ago. Many scholars referred to embezzlement as a white-collar crime. This theft-after-trust offense is probably not a white-collar one in the original sense of the term. This article addresses the problems of data interpretation and behavioral explanation in the study of trust violation in light of scholars' focus on it as a white-collar crime offense.

Intellectual property and white-collar crime: Report of issues, trends, and problems for future research - Kane, John, Beresford, Annette D., Desilets, Christian, Haantz, Sandra, Wall, April. Article Abstract: A research examines the association between intellectual property rights and white-collar crime, and identifies future research that might benefit policymaker, federal, state, and local agencies.

Studying and Teaching White-Collar Crime: Populist and Patrician Perspectives
Shover, Neal; Cullen, Francis. Abstract: White-collar crime is both an integral part of undergraduate criminology courses and textbooks and the subject of enduring analytic controversy. Much of the latter can be traced to two paradigms employed by investigators and teachers when they examine white-collar crime: Populist and Patrician. How much attention is paid to the victims and costs of white-collar crime, the analytic centrality of criminalization, and the variables and dynamics that purportedly explain variation in offending. Pedagogical use of conflicting paradigm hold the potential to enhance students' ability to think critically about white-collar crime.

Some Personality Correlates of Business White-Collar Crime.
Blickle, Gerhard; Schlegel, Alexander; Fassbender, Pantaleon; Klein, Uwe.
In this paper the results of the first cross-sectional study in Europe examining personality correlates of white-collar crime in business are presented. This study is an extension of Collins and Schmidt's 1993 research on white-collar crime in the United States. Business white-collar crime is predicted by gender, low behavioral self-control, high hedonism, high narcissism, and high conscientiousness. It is argued here that high-ranking white-collar crime criminals in business combine low integrity with high conscientiousness.

The Neglected Victims and Unexamined Costs of White-Collar Crime - Elizabeth Moore, Michael Mills. Although no one disputes that aggregate fiscal costs of white-collar crime dwarf comparable losses from street crime, victimization researchers and the victims' movement have ignored entirely the victims of white-collar crime. This can be attributed to conservative domination of the victims' agenda and the ambiguous moral character of white-collar victims. This article distinguishes primary and secondary costs of white-collar crime.

Globalization and the Federal Prosecution of White Collar Crime
Ellen S. Podgor. Abstract: This essay focuses on the international flavor developing in the prosecution of white collar crime. The essay next addresses judicial interpretation of white collar statutes where there has been no explicit reference to extraterritoriality in the statute. The essay offers jurisdiction questions that have arisen as a result of white collar crime criminal activity exceeding the borders of the United States.

Knocking The Starch Out Of White Collar Crime
White-collar crime tugs at the bottom line of every company, from mid-sized restaurants and lumberyards to Fortune 100 firms.

TRAVIS HIRSCHI, MICHAEL GOTTFREDSON. ABSTRACT: Advocates of the concept of white-collar crime have failed to make the case for its scientific value. Steffensmeier's efforts efforts support our contention that the correlates of white-collar crime are the same as the correlates of crime, that the age distribution of offending is the same for white-collar crimes as for other crimes, that official statistics have sufficient validity for many etiological purposes.

On the Relationship between White-Collar Crime and Political Sociology: A Suggestion and Resource for Teaching. - Gerber, Jurg, Fritsch, Eric J. Abstract: Describes a college-level student research project on white-collar crime and its relationship to political sociology.


Trafficking in Human Organs: An Emerging Form of White-Collar Crime? 
Thomas W. Foster. The article inquires into the typical circumstances that surround the sale-for profit-of organs.


White-Collar Crime, The Essentials
Brian K. Payne. White Collar Crime: The Essentials is a comprehensive, yet compact text that addresses the most important topics in white collar crime, while allowing for more accessibility through cost. This is an easily-supplemented resource for any course that covers white collar crime.

Notorious White-Collar Criminals

Charles Ponzi
Charles Ponzi, the infamous white-collar criminal for which the investment fraud is named after. In the 1920s Charles Ponzi procured a large number of investments to buy discounted postage coupons, and then went ahead and amassed larger investments from even more investors. Instead of the initial investor's money being paid back on returns from the sale of the postage coupons, it was instead paid back by money from the second wave of investors, all while Ponzi pocketed $20 million dollars for himself.

Jerome Kerviel
During 2007, Kerviel traded in anticipation of falling market prices, and then began concealing his trading by creating losing trades on purpose in order to offset gains. Though the bank Kerviel worked for, the Société Générale, claims they had no knowledge of the banker’s activities, it has been reported that his trading made the bank an estimated profit of nearly $2 billion.

Martin Frankel
Though Martin Frankel had been barred from stock trading numerous times and had to eventually change his name to David Rosse and set up a Catholic foundation in an attempt to discredit the accusations against him, these and the SEC’s suspicions didn’t stop Martin Frankel from succeeding in defrauding and embezzling more than $200 million from numerous state insurance companies.

John Rigas
Founded by John Rigas in 1951, Adelphia Communications was one of the largest cable companies in the United States boasting 5.6 million customers in over 30 states. The problem with Rigas’ Adelphia Communications was that the company was not reporting its debts and falsified profits of nearly $2.3 billion. Rigas and his sons also failed to report over $3 billion in investments they had received.

Bernard Ebbers
Considered the tenth most corrupt CEO in American history, Ebbers was the CEO of WorldCom, a telecommunications company that essentially looked to be on the right track to wealth and success. Though Ebbers received many accolades for WorldCom’s acquisition of another telecom company, MCI in the late 1990s, trouble began soon after. Ebbers was accused of defrauding WorldCom of $11 billion and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Bernie Madoff
Bernie Madoff used the Ponzi scheme for so long and to such an astonishing effect that, all told, he bilked investors of nearly $800 million. Beginning in the 1970s, Madoff would acquire money from investors with promises of massive returns on future investments, but in reality, instead of investing the cash, he would put it into a bank account of his own. When one of his investors wanted some of the money they had invested in Madoff, he would draw on his wealth of fraudulent capital and give them pieces of their investments. Once the money began to thin out in the earlier 2000s and Madoff was unable to repay his investors.

The name Enron has become ubiquitous with white-collar crime. At one point in time, the Houston, Texas-based energy company was the seventh largest company in the United States. By using shell corporations to fabricate profits and deceptive accounting practices, Enron kept millions of dollars worth of debt hidden from investors and the market as a whole. For a time Enron remained undiscovered, but by 2001, the company’s complex system of lies unravelled and Enron found itself in debt by the billions. Enron stock plummeted from $90 a share to less than 70 cents, but not before company executives could steal millions of dollars while subsequently bankrupting Enron’s shareholders and investors.