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Law Enforcement: White-Collar and Corporate Crimes Essay

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Updated: Sep 23rd, 2021

White-collar crime as described by Edward Sutherland from the interactionist school of thought is crimes committed by people of high social status and class. It includes crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, bankruptcy fraud, insider dealing, public corruption, identity theft, pension fund crime, occupational crime, and the likes of all those activities that are done by people of high standards and education. These crimes are usually done through computers or by means of paper. They account for around $300b in losses as stated by the FBI. It is also a fact that these crimes largely go undetected and are therefore a huge threat to the sustenance of economic growth in any country.

White-collar crimes are essentially based individually. They are hard to catch but when they are it is often seen that their punishment is far less than what petty criminals get for stealing a mere television set. Often their payoffs are greater than the hard time they have to face with the law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the exact extent of their victims is hard to diffuse. Essentially white-collar criminals are motivated to carry out various acts of fraud because of greed or their current economical positions.

There is hardly any difference between them and petty street criminals as both are after the same thing sustenance, the only difference perhaps lies in the fact that white-collar criminals are more sophisticated in their means of carrying out crimes and are not easily caught whilst the petty street criminal has to face the consequences. (Keel, 2008)

Professional crime is different from corporate crime in the sense that it is carried out for the benefit of the individual alone and not for the corporation as a whole and almost always the victim is the client alone. So there is a direct link with the client. However, when it comes to corporate crime the victim cannot be easily identified as the victims are society as a whole, the employees, the shareholders, the customers, etc (Keel, 2008)

Corporate crimes are those that are committed by business entities or by individuals who can be identified with the business corporation. They are responsible for huge losses and their victims are infallibly the public at large. When it comes to the impact of these crimes clearly the winner is atrocities committed by big corporations. Such is the case of the pharmaceuticals company and the incident of the poison cyanide that killed several people and impaired several more. Incidentally, people are more hateful towards corporate crimes as opposed to professional crimes. They would rather see severe consequences for big business entities than individuals and rightly so as the losses and damage were done by big companies Enron which is a case in point have long-lasting effects and unnerving results. (Erman, 2005)

Unlike white-collar crime, a corporate crime includes a wide range of misbehavior at the corporate level most of which is serious in nature. It includes giving false statements of assets thus deceiving and manipulating potential investors, occupational safety health hazards, exploitation of labor, misleading advertisements, formation of illegal monopolies, environmental as well as moral degradation, corrupting people, and bribing them all for the purpose of corporate benefits.

Thus we can understand from this that corporate crime has bigger fish to catch and it does not focus solely on individual benefits such as in the case of white-collar crimes but focuses on the attainment of profits that can prove fruitful for the entire company.

Corporate offenses are hard to study as one must have knowledge of not only criminal law but civil and administrative laws as well. Furthermore, a lot more funds are required to study this area of concern as opposed to white-collar crime. Even though corporate crimes have a far-fetched effect on society as compared to conventional professional crimes they are usually not given much media coverage. In fact, the last time such mega coverage was given to acts of corruption by corporations was when the Enron case became highly publicized in the early 2000s. (Clinard and Yeager, 2005)

The most striking difference between the two lies in the resultant impacts. As mentioned before professional crimes have impacts at an individual level but the damage done by corporations is massive. They sell faulty products to millions of their consumers, they collude with one another and keep prices outrageously high thus stealing from consumers, they give false information on their asset holdings and this leads to the defrauding of thousands of investors and pensioners. Similarly, unsafe working conditions put the lives of millions of workers in danger, and have workplace hazards have resulted in the death of millions of workers. (Clinard and Yeager, 2005)

More importantly when it comes to calculating the cost of corporate crimes and those committed by professionals corporate crime far exceeds the amount as compared to the latter. In fact, the cost of corporate crime far exceeds the cost of all kinds of crimes put together such as burglaries, thefts, arsons, and robberies. When corporate crimes do come in court they almost always get away because they have enough resources to fight any case against them whereas a mere white-collar professional is hard to let off the hook.

Furthermore, corporations or corporate officials cannot be stigmatized as criminals and they hardly come in that domain anyway. At a professional level, the story is a little different. Since they are the sole perpetrators of a specific crime they have to bear the stigmatized label of criminal and undertake a heavier penalty. (Clinard and Yeager, 2005)

Corporate crime is more efficient when it comes to undertaking bribery and corruption is more rampant in this case as compared to white-collar crimes. It takes into account window-dressing which although may not be a crime but can still be misleading as it does not take into account the principle of prudence. Furthermore, misinterpretations and deliberate miscalculations in the accountancy department also lead to fraud. (Clinard and Yeager, 2005)

Lastly, the level of power and influence between a corporation and an individual professional is massive. This great difference explains why crimes conducted on behalf of or by corporations are not easily penalized as opposed to those that are carried out by white-collar professionals.


David Erman, 2005, responses to corporate versus individual wrongdoing. Web.

Marshall B Clinard, Peter C. Yeager. Corporate Crime, 2005. Web.

Robert O Keel, White Collar Crime, 2008. Web.

White Collar Crime. Web.

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