Champion (2011) defines white collar crimes as “a non violent crime, usually committed in commercial situations, for financial gain.” The Federal Bureau of Investigations cites the use of concealment, deceit or trust-violation as the primary mechanisms for committing these crimes.
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Individuals often carry out these offenses in order to access property, services or property. Alternatively, they may do so as a protective measure against the loss of these latter incentives. Others engage in white-collar crime in order to gain an advantage over their colleagues at work or in business.
The public categorizes white-collar crime as non violent. Many wrongfully assume that it is a victimless crime because of this label. However cheating, stealing and deceit are synonymous to the crime, and have the potential to destroy families, companies, investors or even an economy.
Motivations, consequences and punishment for white-collar crime
Parties affected by the crime and how it affects them
White collar criminals place more emphasis on their personal needs than their organization’s to the point of downplaying the real costs of their actions. For instance, a lawyer may dishonestly increase the number of billable hours that he did per file. If this same person handles about 70 cases per week, then the organization could lose about $150,000 dollars in revenue. Once the tactic becomes commonplace, then the organization could lose millions in annual returns (Naso, 2012).
Aside from the increased losses experienced by such firms, white collar crimes also shortchange clients. Professionals, sellers and business persons will make promises that they cannot deliver and this will render them uncompetitive. For instance, the above lawyer would claim that he has made a court appearance when he has not.
Clients will keep wondering why their cases are dragging on and may take their business elsewhere. This type of crime also harms coworkers because someone will get credit for work they have not done. The white-collar criminal may seem more hardworking or diligent than their peers, and this could attract incentives like promotions, salaries or other perks.
Honest coworkers may become demoralized over such a state of affairs and the institution will lose out. In the world of business, entrepreneurs who engage in white-collar crime may seem more lucrative for partnership than their honest counterparts. Customers may take their business there under the assumption that they will be better off. In the end, the white-collar criminals rarely deliver while the honest businessmen may become demoralized or even go out of business.
In developing nations, white collar crime manifests as corruption. This stems from the fact that white collar crime is so deeply entrenched in their corporate system that it has become almost a necessity to do business. In places like Russia, a business has no chance of survival if it does not pay bribes to government bureaucrats (Healy & Ramanna, 2013). Failure to do so leads to withheld contracts, lack of supplies and eventually complete shutdown.
Many state-owned corporations in these corrupt nations often create shell companies that enable them to siphon company assets or profits to third parties. They often use up dividends that would have been paid to shareholders or applied in business development. As a consequence, stakeholders in the business fail to get what is rightfully theirs. Extortion and bribes are a form of backroom tax that demoralizes entrepreneurs and investors alike. It discourages people from trading and thus stifles a nation’s ability to grow or innovate.
This has an adverse implication on the population’s quality of life because only few people will be willing to invest. When prosecutors, government officials and law enforcers treat white collar crime as a normal part of business, then victims will never get justice.
This culture tarnishes the fabric of society as civilians have no public body that they can trust. The presence of white-collar crime in the public sector makes it easier for hardened or violent criminals to get away with their wrongs. It devastates family members and casualties of violent crime.
Laws pertaining to white collar crime
Calabresi & Saporito (2012) explains that convicted offenders may serve jail time upon completion of their cases. Sometimes this could range from a few months to several years depending on the extent of offense. The courts could also decide to impose fines for such crimes. A case in point was the payment of a 1-million-dollar fine for fraud by a Wall Street investor.
However, this is contingent on how the prosecutor collected the evidence in the first place. Most law enforcement officials rely on wire taps to nub white collar criminals, yet the law limits use of wire taps unless one has probable cause for the commission of a crime. Additionally, the lack of standard definitions of insider trading limits successful prosecution and incarceration of suspects.
Most white-collar crimes take the form of insider trading; as a consequence, ambivalent definitions and standards on the same impede law enforcers from taking actions. A lot of dynamics come into play when a judge must decide on the threshold of insider trading that leads to criminal violations.
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After the 2007-2008 global economic meltdown, many governments realized that white-collar crime could lead to dire consequences. They started looking at companies such as Worldcom and Enron, which failed to nip these problems at the bid (Kaplan, 2013). Therefore, in some countries, white collar crime can elicit sentences that mirror sentences in violent crime. They have created guidelines which judges must use when making sentencing decisions.
Whether white-collar crime should be punished more severely
White-collar criminals should indeed receive greater penalties for the wrongdoings. Marks (2012) affirms that these are individuals who do not have a moral compass. They are highly deceptive people who will twist and bend the truth in order to achieve selfish gains. Such groups will ignore the real costs of their actions and thus engage in conduct that has adverse consequences on everyone concerned.
White-collar criminals seem to have an entitlement mentality that makes them think that they can get away with misdeeds. It is easy for them to rationalize their actions and immoral conduct. They lack a standard that guides their behavior, so they are likely to commit these offenses. It is incumbent upon stakeholders in the legal system to create tougher laws that would deter such persons.
When an individual lacks direction from within, then the law should step in to restrain them. Severe penalties would act as a control to keep the deviations of such people in check. Failure to reign in on such behavior could leave the corporate scene in a state of disorder.
As mentioned in earlier sections of the paper, white-collar crime has dire consequences upon the masses. When left unchecked, whole organizations may close and thousands of people could lose their jobs. Families that depend on them would be helpless. White collar crime should elicit severe penalties in order to protect the masses of people that could be affected by the actions of just a few individuals.
The principal of just punishment states that a person who commits a wrongdoing out of negligence deserves a lenient penalty over a person who knowingly commits a crime. People who take part in white collar crime are well-aware of their actions. Furthermore, many of them have been doing the same things for years on end.
It makes a lot of sense to give severe punishment to recidivists than first-time criminals (Kaplan, 2013). Prosecutors may catch a white collar criminal for the first time but this does not imply that the suspect has not been committing the wrong repeatedly. When investigators find such individuals, they should endeavor to establish how long they have been engaging in the act and thus match the punishment with the crime.
In today’s highly competitive business environment, some companies encourage their employees to do whatever it takes to succeed. In the absence of an external deterrent, these employees will commit white collar crimes under the guise of propagating the company’s competiveness. Severe penalties would curb such a problem.
White collar crime is not a victimless crime. It demoralizes honest employees and entrepreneurs who never get rewards for their diligence. This leads to poor service outcomes for clients who must contend with substandard offerings. Additionally, it may cause serious financial losses.
Entire organizations can close because of uncurbed white collar crime. Family members of such parties would have no redress. This crime also discourages investors and stifles business growth. Eventually, a nation’s economy could be severely impeded. It is for these reasons that punishment should be harsher. Such an approach would exert external controls on persons with no internal moral compass.
Calabresi, M. & Saporito, B. (2012). The street fighter. Time, 179(6), 22-27. Web.
Champion, D. (2011). White-collar crimes and organizational offending: An integral approach. International Journal of Business, Humanities and Technology, 1(3), 34-47. Web.
Healy, P. & Ramanna, K. (2013). When the crowd fights corruption. Harvard Business Review, 91(1), 122-128. Web.
Kaplan, D. (2013). The judge who rules on business. Fortune, 167(2), 106. Web.
Marks, J. (2012). A matter of ethics: understanding the mind of a white-collar criminal. Financial Executive, November, 31-34. Web.
Naso, R. (2012). When money and morality collide: White collar crime and the paradox of integrity. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 26(2), 241-254. Web.