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Definitions of white-collar crime
This is an expression habitually used to denote crimes that do not involve violence. Perpetrators of these crimes aspire for financial gratification. The term represents a plethora of offences, like forgery, blackmail, money laundering, and tax evasion among many more. Documenting these offences is difficult since law enforcement agencies recognize and document only three examples as crime (Cornell University Law School, 2010). It goes without saying that monitoring and evaluation becomes difficult due to improper record keeping.
This is an activity first performed in the 1920s, but received little attention from the authorities. Several regimes abetted these crimes but were not brought to justice. In the present society, white-collar offenders are accorded more leniencies, as compared to armed robbers and other violent offenders. This is because putting them on trial is difficult, since most of them cover their crimes in a series of intricate processes (Cornell University Law School, 2010).
The laws that regulate white-collar crime
In the American constitution, white-collar crimes are regulated by the commerce clause at national level (Conklin, 2007). This legislation entrusts power of implementing these laws to the congress, although, it recommends punishment for counterfeiting only. It should be noted that most states have established internal mechanisms to deal with the vice (Albanese, 2006).
The RICO act of 1970 was legislated with a view of protecting American citizens from these crimes. The act metes out punishment for organizations and other individuals found guilty of racketeering and other offences. The law recommends 20 a year imprisonment term for every offence mentioned by the act. It also has provisions through which victims can claim retribution from their offenders. All property found to have been amassed fraudulently will be reclaimed by the state and used to compensate victims (thefreedictionary.com, 2010).
The Sox Act was introduced by congress after a near collapse of the stock market in the 1990s. Company executives and their accounting firms doctored their financial records to indicate perpetual profitability. This greatly boosted their share price hence drew many investors to them. After the demise of Enron Corporation, investor apathy rose to unprecedented magnitudes. This affected the economy badly, forcing congress to intervene and ensure such occurrences never arose again. This was a more elaborate piece of legislation as it increased the maximum sentencing period to 20 years from 5. The legislation also outlaws falsification of financial documents. Convicted persons face incarceration for a 10 year period, in addition to, an automatic $ 5 million fine. Most notably the act formulated an act governing crimes of securities, with a 25 year jail term (thefreedictionary.com, 2010).
Impact of white-collar crime on society
It has been noted that tax payers lose well over $300 billion annually as a result of these crimes. Senior Americans will remember the 1980 scandals arising from insider trading. Corporate bigwigs made huge profits by trading based on information other investors did not have. In the early 1990s, the savings industry collapsed, taking down peoples savings with it. This was also attributed to fraud by corporate chiefs (Salinger, 2005).
The aftermath of this misdemeanor was massive job loss by employees of the respective industries and companies. In Enron’s case, for example, investors lost billions of dollars and thousands of workers lost their jobs (Salinger, 2005). Finding alternative jobs was unattainable for them due to the negative publicity of their former employer. Overall, the economy slowed down making life difficult for ordinary citizens.
Albanese, J. (2006). Professional ethics in criminal justice (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson, Allyn and Bacon.
Cornell University Law School. (2010). United States Constitution.topics.law.cornell.edu. Web.
Conklin, J. (2007). Criminology (10th ed.). Boston: Pearson, Allyn and Bacon.
Salinger, L. M. (2005). Encyclopedia of white-collar & corporate crime: A – I, Volume 1. SAGE Publishers.
The free dictionary. (2010). White-collar crime. Web.