White-collar crime has existed for centuries, causing significant damage to US corporations and the public at large. According to FBI estimates, white-collar crime costs the US up to $300 billion annually – a figure that testifies to the scale and importance of the problem (Kari Sable Burns 2006). In the light of the increased frequency of financial fraud in the past few years, many would agree that overcoming white-collar schemes becomes a crucial task for the society. While the public sees white collar crime as a manifestation of depravity of corporate managers, the debate has intensified as to its origins.
There is a viewpoint that corporate crime may be seen as a product of capitalism, generated by the problems inherent in the market economies. This paper will seek to identify to what extent it is true, based on key features of white collar and organised crime. White Collar Crime: What Is It? What is white collar crime? As the name suggests it embraces the criminal activities perpetrated by the company’s educated workforce, quite often its top or middle-level management. The schemes are numerous and diverse. According to the list from Kari and Associates:
White-collar crimes are fraud, bankruptcy fraud, bribery, insider trading, embezzlement, computer crime, medical crime, public corruption, identity theft, environmental crime, pension fund crime, RICO crimes, consumer fraud, occupational crime, securities fraud, financial fraud, and forgery (Kari Sable Burns 2006). This kind of crime is therefore perpetrated without guns or other weapons; instead, its traces remain on paper or increasingly in computer networks. This makes it even more difficult to trace and uncover white collar crimes.
Policy Initiatives White collar and organized crime is a notion so diverse that it is often difficult to find policies and laws related generally to all schemes included in this concept. While every state chooses to reflect anti-white collar crime policies in its statutes in a unique, individual way, there are a variety of international policy initiatives aimed at introducing coherence in anti-crime policing. Regional and Non-Governmental Agreements Here belongs, for instance, the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (ETS No.173) accepted by the Council of Europe (Percy 2002).
This document attempts to outline guidelines for combating active and passive bribery of domestic public officials and private sector actors, as well as money laundering initiatives. It also calls for the creation of a unified network of counteracting corruption joining the efforts of all Europeans Union members. This convention complements Convention on the Fight Against Corruption adopted bythe European Union (Council Act No. 97/C 195/01, 1997 O. J. 195, 2-11) (Percy 2002).
The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development adopted Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions serving similar purposes. The UN adopted United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime that aims to overcome “money laundering, corruption, obstruction of justice, and other organized crimes” (Percy 2002). The intensity of government actions against white-collar and organized crime demonstrates that the international and national administrations regard this kind of crime as a dangerous phenomenon.
Its persistence or proliferation can damage the public or private actors, disrupting the normal functioning of society and economy. The Origins of White-Collar Crime: A Discussion of the Term White collar crime, by definition advanced by the creator of the term is “crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation” (Baker 2004). This means that the definition is largely sociological or even socialist in nature as it concentrates on the social status of the accused, not any other characteristics.
The persons who will be accused of white-collar crimes will in most cases be prosecuted according to their status which influences justice decisions as this person will fit more closely into the traditional stereotype for the perpetrator of white collar crime. John S. Baker Jr. (2004) claims that “government prosecutors are far more likely to indict the "upper-class" businessman who works for Tyco--or the faceless Arthur Andersen partnership--than a middle-class grandmother who buys medications in Canada”.
According to Baker, the very notion of white-collar crime appeared as a way to make the conviction of top-level corporate executives easier. By devising the term, Professor Sutherland sought to reconceptualize the framework of prosecution and to deemphasize the requirements of mens rea (malicious intent) and presumption of innocence in the process of prosecution. As such, these requirements often left corporate crime unpunished. Corporate executives could often be presented as individuals who transgressed the boundaries of the law almost unknowingly, without the understanding that their actions were unlawful.