Institutional causes of white collar crimes

The term white collar crime pertains to any illegal action performed by an employee or an officer individual during the conduct of his job. This specific type of behavior was coined by Sutherland (1940) to describe a criminal behavior that has strong sociological background. White collar crimes are categorically called crimes because it violates the sociological norm that is acceptable to the wide public or the society.

It may be different from the rest of the crimes that are considered detestable such as murder and swindling but these types of crimes are also punishable by law and are not well acceptable once performed or observed by the public eye. It should be interesting to note that until today, some schools of thought consider white collar crimes as separate from the legal crimes that we know of, while other schools of thought perceive white collar crimes as detestable as murder and its parallel illegal activities.

Some major examples of white collar crimes include the inhibition of trade of a certain product or item to specific consumers, as well as wrongful or misguiding application of patents to particular inventions and unreasonable practices in employment. The fraudulent implementation of bogus brands of specific items on the market is also considered a white collar crime. Performance of a white collar crime is also punishable by law, just like the regular types of crimes (US Department of Justice, 1989).

There are three main causes of white collar crimes. The first institutional cause of white collar crime is to acquire profit, property or any type of benefit through an illegal means. The root cause of such approach to acquire money through the fastest and simplest way generally stems from the financial status of the perpetrator. It has been commonly observed that white collar crimes that have been committed in order to acquire profit originate from individuals who are experiencing extreme poverty and hardship in their personal lives.

There are particular individuals in third world countries who would intentionally trick a system or an office in order to amass more profit than what is normally expected, and all these actions are based on their dire need to generate an income to feel their starving families. Another reason for an individual to perform a white collar crime in order to acquire property is greed, wherein an individual aims to gather as much property as he can, even ignoring that there are certain boundaries that exist between ownership and property rights.

The second cause of white collar crime is to evade the release of funds in the form of payment or in the form of loss of income through sales or services rendered. Such unlawful actions include misrepresentation of assets and liabilities in government documents that are filed during the annual income tax filing. Another example would be portrayed in the deductions that will be implemented in an employee, based on the employee’s base salary.

In the office system of the individual’s company is not careful and meticulous enough in checking the information that the employee has entered in the document, this employee may has less deductions in his salary, of which he intentionally misguided the system in order to receive a bigger net salary. Another example of a white collar crime involving providing an invoice for a inflated number of services, when only a couple of services were delivered to the client.

Such trickery should be constantly checked in order to prevent further repetition by the perpetrator. A third cause of white collar crime is the need to take the lead in the business or in an individual’s personal status. This type of white collar crime is strongly associated with the concept of self-confidence and pride, wherein an individual would perform almost anything it takes in order for him to come out as the winner in the competition among his peers.

Competition may happen among individuals of different economic status, from the simple clerk to the rich multinational tycoons in the commercial business world. There may be trickery involved in order to attain such status and this has already been considered as a form of white collar crime.


Sutherland EH (1940):  White collar criminality. S. Amer. Sociol. Rev. 1:10-15. United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (1989):  White collar crime: A report to the Public. (Washington, D. C. :  Department of Justice).