White collar crimes Elite crimes Crimes of the powerful
Occupational crimes Offences committed by individuals for themselves in the course of their occupations and the offences of employees against their employers (Clinard and Quinney 1973). A typical example of which is embezzlement, involving offenders, either individually or in groups, engaging in illegal or rule-breaking activities for personal gain at the expense of consumers, clients or employers.
Organizational crimes Illegal organizational behaviour which is a form of collective rule breaking in order to achieve the organizational goals. A typical example is the neglect of safety regulations, which does not involve personal gain, but may be seen as being ‘for the good of’ the organization’ by enhancing profitability or efficiency.
Low visibility An essential feature of white-collar offences is that they take place under the cover of normal occupational routines (Shapiro, 1990), and involve the exploitation of occupational expertise or organizational system. They can therefore be readily disguised as ‘business offenders are legitimately present at the scene’ (Clarke, 1990). All of this means that victims are often unaware that any offence has been committed at all. In addition, offences are generally ‘private’ rather than public, leaving little visible evidence of their commission. This relative invisibility means that offences are peculiarly resistant to detection, and even when detected, are often not reported to public authorities.
Complexity ·While many white-collar crimes can essentially be reduced to lying, cheating and stealing (Shapiro, 1990), many are extremely complex. The expertise which is being abused, which forms the basis of the offender’s occupational position, may be scientific, technological, financial or legal. Many are also highly organized, involve many employees, and may have been going on for several years. Organizational offences may involve a complex web of falsification, cover ups, action and inaction. Many of the regulations and laws which are being flouted are themselves exceedingly complex, making it difficult to determine exactly what offences have been committed and who is responsible for them.
Diffusion of responsibility In many organizations functions are separated and responsibilities delegated. Consequently, it is often difficult to determine who is immediately responsible for any offence
The diffusion of victimisation Victimization is also diffused. Whereas in many conventional offences individual identifiable offenders harm individual identifiable victims, in many white-collar offences there is no single identifiable victim. The victim may be an abstract entity such as the government or the company, or there may be many victims who suffer only a minimal loss
Detection and prosecution White-collar crimes are particularly difficult to detect by victims, supervisors or law enforcers. Enforcers must possess the same scientific and technical knowledge as perpetrators and it may take many weeks, months or even years of careful investigation to unravel the more complex offences
Lenient sanctions Even when prosecuted, it is often argued that white-collar offenders are not dealt with severely. Few offenders are sent to prison and the vast majority are fined amounts which are often described as “derisory”
Ambiguous law The nature of offences creates many legal problems. Their complexity means that it is often difficult to capture the essence of offences in legislation and to specify precisely the situations in which an offence has been committed, leaving many loopholes to be exploited.