Does White Collar Crime Exist After All?

This perspective underscores that the very introduction of the term was intended to stigmatise the corporate America and to shift the burden of culpability from low-class to middle-class and upper-class Americans. Thus, this approach has resulted in a situation where “in the quest for greater egalitarianism, the stigma of crime has been applied against much of corporate America” (Baker 2004).

Therefore, one can deduce from this discussion that white collar crime by definition implies a socialist understanding of crime and its origins in terms of class and is therefore irrelevant to the real-life situation as it views real facts within the framework of politically charged terms. Echoing this position is a 2002 publication in New American entitled “Criminalizing Capitalism” by William Norman Grigg. The author claims that the US government has embarked on a campaign against criminal fraud in order to push the responsibility for the economic downturn on corporations and to broaden the powers of the central authorities.

The famous Sarbanes-Oxley Act involving greater control of corporate activities, it is argued is a “a stunning expansion of central government control over what remains of our private enterprise system” (Grigg 2002). However, corporate crime does exist even if violations that happen in corporations cannot be always described as crime in the strict sense of the word. In this sense, it seems that Baker’s perspective, although he correctly points out the flaws of the terms “white collar crime”, ignores the manifestation of unethical behaviour in modern corporations and fails to account for them.

Corporate scandals brought it to the surface and demonstrated to the public more vividly; however, the society for a long time knew that corporate officers can embezzle funds and forge reports. The motivation for white collar crime schemes is grounded in the market economy system and modern capitalism that emphasizes material gain as the main measurement of success. The success of the corporation is measured by its profits – not by the quality of its products or sales volume.

Most surely it is not measured by corporate social responsibility, although the image of an irresponsible company can damage sales. For this reason, corporate executives are hard-pressed to meet their numerical targets not to disappoint investors, which in turn motivates them to perpetrate fraud. Alternatively, there are some schemes like embezzlement and identity theft that are aimed only at enriching the individual, regardless of the investors. There is also a direct link between the ability to make money and the feeling of a person’s self-worth.

The distinct perception that a successful CEO will turn a profit in each quarter of the year has made many reluctant to admit defeat and forced them to try to smooth out profits and losses through accounting tricks. Instead, these corporate officers had their faces saved – but only for a brief period, followed by a time when they faced disgrace in a corporate lawsuit. Thus, white-collar crimes are “about greed and self-aggrandizement”, the two motivations for fraudulent schemes within corporations (Feige 2005).

The important role of money in a capitalist economy motivates individuals to pursue monetary gain almost at any cost for the sake of their own enrichment. The need for self-aggrandizement is not directly motivated by capitalism, but capitalism offers an outlet for this natural personality trait through earning money. For this reason, corporate fraud that seeks to inflate results occurs, harming individual investors and the economy alike.