We have been trained by our parents not to commit crime since very early age. We are constantly told not to mistreat friends at school, not to harm people and animals and be a good human being. We are convinced through nurturing that even if we starve to death we don’t have the right to steal or harm a person intentionally if he/she misbehaves. In sum, we are almost brainwashed not to commit violent crimes. What about crimes that we can commit at work on our desk? Stealing funds on paper, online, embezzlements..
Honesty and sense of justice has to be a way of life for professionals. However, sometimes people can be dragged into a complicated organized crime without any intention to steal or harm the company and people. Just by doing his job, he can be a part of a great scheme. These are the areas everyone should carefully watch and analyze analytically in their professional life. One should always keep in mind that we are not always talking about a huge scandal like Enron back in 2001. A white collar crime doesn’t always have to be a sophisticated insider trading that involves billions of dollars or takes a lot of time and effort to unravel the criminals and details of the crime.
What is a white collar crime?
Although bribery is one of the most ancient crimes of the mankind, the term ‘white collar crime’ was not heard of until the 20th century when the American sociologist Edwin Hardin Sutherland coined it as a new approach to the law enforcement in the workplace. Sutherland argued that law enforcement focuses on violent crimes and stealing, which are widespread among lower classes of the society and ignores more elaborate crimes committed by the elites and business class. In his book titled ‘White-collar Crime,’ he wrote that crime should be dealt with a new approach which focuses on the perpetrators rather than the crime itself.
Lying, cheating, and stealing. According to the FBI, these are the terms that sum up the white-collar crime. It covers a full range of frauds committed by business and government professionals. It is important to note that it is not a victimless crime. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors’ billions of dollars. When you think of how complicated white-collar jobs have turned into, you can imagine the extent and grift nature of the white-collar crimes.
Bribery is one of the most well-known types of white-collar crime. It involves around a mutual agreement between a person who wants his job done and an influential person who can make it happen. The former gives the latter money or valuable gift in exchange for a favorable decision or use of power. It is an unethical practice because the other parties have unjust conditions. While bribery is not tolerated in the Western world, in many developing parts of the world, bribery seems to be the only way to do business.
Insider trading: Insider trading is buying or selling a company's stock while in the know or in possession of material or non-public information. If an employee tells his or her friend some important company information and the friend trades that corporation's stock, both buddies could be indicted.
It involves some sort of deceit, underhandedness or misrepresentation of a company's performance that manipulates the market and can result in people making bad investments. An accountant would be guilty of this if he or she cooks the books to make it look like a company is bringing in more profit than it really is.
If a company entrusts an accountant with taking care of finances and the accountant decides to secretly funnel away some funds for himself, the accountant is guilty of a sophisticated kind of theft called embezzlement. It is money laundering if the person secretly runs away with the funds entrusted to him, often by cleverly hiding the funds.
White-collar crimes have ripple effect
Unless a lot of money is involved, white-collar crimes are not taken seriously. The white-collar criminal rationalizes his acts by convincing himself that nobody is harmed! Maybe except the super wealthy boss and his family… The perpetrator can even justify his crime by saying he was entitled to this extra money. For example, he could argue that the management didn’t pay for his overtime work or he didn’t get the promotion he had deserved for so long…
And when the fraud takes place, there is a ripple effect that harm various levels of society. The analysis of the white collar criminal who sees the act as a few ten or hundred thousands from the bosses’ pocket is simply wrong. Fraud means mismanagement of money which results in the increase of the overall costs. The company could lay off people to reduce costs and protect itself against additional rise in the costs. This situation doesn’t only impact the lives of employees but also customers, business partners, investors and society at large. If the fraud is sophisticated and large at scope like insider trading, it also harms the investors’ trust in the stock market and force the investors to make more conservative decisions. Worst of all, if you are one of the investors who put money on the stocks of the company with fraudulent acts, your savings could evaporate within a few days.