Understanding White Collar Crime

Topics: Crime, Criminology, White-collar crime Pages: 64 (20605 words) Published: June 21, 2013

Understanding White-Collar Crime
Definitions, Extent, and Consequences
S ecti on Hi g h l i g h ts
•• •• •• •• •• •• White-Collar Crime: An Evolving Concept Modern Conceptualizations of White-Collar Crime Extent of White-Collar Crime Consequences of White-Collar Crime Public Attitudes About White-Collar Crime Characteristics of White-Collar Offenders


s noted in the introduction, Edwin Sutherland created the concept of white-collar crime more than 70 years ago to draw attention to the fact that crimes are committed by individuals in all social classes. As will be seen in this section, one of the largest difficulties in understanding white-collar crime has centered on an ongoing debate about how to define white-collar crime. After discussing various ways that white-collar crime can be defined, attention will be given to the extent of white-collar crime, the consequences of this illicit behavior, public attitudes about white-collar crime, and patterns describing the characteristics of white-collar offenders.

SectionII Understanding White-Collar Crime


As a backdrop to this discussion, consider the following recent white-collar crimes described in the media: •• A jury convicted [then-Baltimore mayor Sheila] Dixon . . . of embezzling about $500 worth of gift cards donated to the city for needy families. Dixon then pleaded guilty last month to lying about thousands of dollars in gifts from her former boyfriend, a prominent developer. (Nuckols, 2010) •• The money manager and technology investor convicted of stealing some $22 million from clients and using his gains to support charitable causes in Colorado and elsewhere was sentenced in New York Friday to nine years in federal prison. (Harden, 2010) •• The secretary of a St. Peters business has been indicted in connection with the embezzlement of $573,388 from her employer. (“Secretary Charged With Embezzling,” 2010) •• A former Redondo Beach police officer accused of taking more than $75,000 from a law enforcement officers’ association pleaded guilty . . . to one count of grand theft by embezzlement, authorities said. (Lopez, 2010) •• An employee at Goldman Sachs from May 2007 to June 2009 was arrested in July of 2009 and charged with illegally transferring and downloading hundreds of thousands of lines of source code for Goldman’s high-frequency trading system on his last day at the firm. (Heires, 2010) In reviewing these cases, five questions come to mind. First, are each of these cases white-collar crimes? Second, how often do these kinds of crimes occur? Third, what are the consequences of these crimes? Fourth, how serious do you think these crimes are? Finally, who are the offenders in these cases? While the questions are simple in nature, as will be shown in this section, the answers to these questions are not necessarily quite so simple.


White-Collar Crime: An Evolving Concept

While Edwin Sutherland is the pioneer of the study of white-collar crime, the development of the field, and the introduction of the concept of white-collar crime, did not occur in a vacuum. Indeed, prior academic work and societal changes influenced Sutherland’s scholarship, and his scholarship, in turn, has had an enormous influence on criminology and criminal justice. Tracing the source of the concept of white-collar crime and describing its subsequent variations helps to demonstrate the importance of conceptualizing various forms of white-collar misconduct. Sutherland was not the first social scientist to write about crimes by those in the upper class. In his 1934 Criminology text, Sutherland used the term “white-collar criminaloid,” in reference to the “criminaloid concept” initially used by E. A. Ross (1907) in Sin and Society. Focusing on businessmen who engaged in harmful acts under the mask of respectability, Ross further wrote that the criminaloid is “society’s most dangerous foe, more redoubtable by far than the plain...

References: Aubert, Vilhelm (1952) ‘White-Collar Crime and Social Structure’, American Journal of Sociology 58(November): 263-71. Braithwaite, John (2001) ‘Conceptualizing Organizational Crime in a World of Plural Cultures’, in Henry Pontell and David Shichor (eds) Contemporary Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice: Essays in Honor of Gilbert Geis, pp. 17-32. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Bryant, Clifton D. (1974) Deviant Behavior: Occupational and Organizational Bases. Chicago, IL: Rand McNally. Clinard, Marshall B. and Richard Quinney (1973 [1967]) Criminal Behavior Systems: A Typology. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Douglas, Jack D. and John M. Johnson (eds) (1977) Official Deviance. New York: J.B. Lippincott Co. Ermann, M. David and Richard J. Lundman (eds) (1996) Corporate and Governmental Deviance, 5th edn. New York: Oxford University Press. Friedrichs, David O. (1992) ‘White Collar Crime and the Definitional Quagmire: A Provisional Solution’, Journal of Human Justice 3(3): 5-21. Friedrichs, David O. (1996a) Trusted Criminals: White Collar Crime in Contemporary Society. Belmont, CA: ITP/Wadsworth Publishing Co. Friedrichs, David O. (1996b) ‘Defining White Collar Crime: In Defense of an Inclusive Approach’, in James Helmkamp, Richard Ball and Kitty Townsend (eds) Definitional Dilemma: Can and Should There Be a Universal Definition of White Collar Crime?, pp. 263-74. Morgantown, WV: National White Collar Crime Center. Geis, Gilbert (1962) ‘Toward a Delineation of White-Collar Offenses’, Sociological Inquiry 32(Spring): 160-71. Geis, Gilbert (1982) On White-Collar Crime. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Geis, Gilbert (1992) ‘White-Collar Crime: What Is It?’, in Kip Schlegel and David Weisburd (eds) White-Collar Crime Reconsidered, pp. 31-52. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press. Geis, Gilbert (2002) ‘White-Collar Crime’, in Gary W. Potter (ed.) Controversies in White Collar Crime, pp. 37-52. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing Co.
1. How is occupational crime different from occupational deviance? 2. What policy implications arise from the way that white-collar crime is defined? 3. Is workplace violence a form of white-collar crime? Explain.
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