theories of white-collar crime

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Theories of White-Collar Crime. The “Discovery” of White-Collar Crime. Today, people are well aware of white-collar crime, and judges are willing to impose harsh sentences on white-collar criminals However, this has not always been the case - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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Theories of White-Collar Crime

The Discovery of White-Collar CrimeToday, people are well aware of white-collar crime, and judges are willing to impose harsh sentences on white-collar criminals

However, this has not always been the case

In the 1960s people were very indifferent to white-collar crime and even sympathized with the offenders

Seen as much less serious than street crime

Edwin Sutherland changed the field when he published his essay on white-collar criminality

Argued that respectable executives, physicians, and politicians frequently violated the publics trust and committed crime

At this time, white-collar crime was not recognized

White-collar crime existed but was unseen; rather, the focus was on crime of the lower-class

The Discovery of White-Collar CrimeFive factors coalesced to increase concern about white-collar crime:

The turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s (Vietnam, Watergate, Kent State) caused the public to mistrust those in power, including the government and corporate officials

The Civil Rights Movement increased the salience of equality before the law

Consumer and environmental movements disclosed how corporations were defrauding consumers and polluting the environment

Television shows regularly publicized how those in positions of power abused the trust placed in them

Celebrated prosecutions of white-collar offenders were greeted with praise by the public

The Discovery of White-Collar CrimeCriminological attention in white-collar criminality increased dramatically after the 1970s

Rediscovered Sutherlands work on white-collar crime

White-collar crime now seen as a specialization in the field

Sutherland: White-Collar CriminalitySutherland worked for more than a decade collecting relevant materials (since 1928) before setting up his concept of white-collar crime or crime related to business

Claimed criminality in business was expressed most frequently in the form of misrepresentation in financial statements, manipulation of the stock exchange, commercial bribery, bribery of public officials, misrepresentation in advertising, embezzlement, etc.

Presented his work at a meeting of sociologists and economists in 1939 and published it in 1940

This work deemed him the father of white-collar crime

Argued his intent was scientific in that traditional theories that explain lower-class crime cannot explain business crime

Claimed he had no intention of reforming the business world

Sutherland: White-Collar CriminalityWhite-collar was the term used to describe respected members of the community in trusted occupational positions

White-collar crime is defined as a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of an occupation

This definition is intentionally vague with many scholars still debating what conduct should be called white-collar crime

Sutherland: White-Collar CriminalitySutherland offered two distinct criteria for white-collar crime in his 1940 work:

The crime had to occur in the course of the persons occupation

The crime had to be committed by a person of respectability and high social status

Sutherland wanted to focus on the crimes of the rich and powerful

This criteria causes much difficulty because hard to determine how much respectability a person must possess for it to be white-collar crimeSutherland: White-Collar CriminalityArgued the varied types of white-collar crime could be reduced to two categories:

Misrepresentation of asset values

Examples: fraud, swindling

Duplicity in the manipulation of power

Example: double-cross

Offender holds two antagonistic positions

The trust of one position is violated in the interest of the other position

Sutherland: White-Collar CriminalitySutherland addressed what should be considered white-collar crime

Some argue that research should only focus on those acts that have resulted in a conviction in a criminal court

Sutherland rejected this view

Realized many harms perpetrated by companies were not treated as crimes and they could escape criminal prosecution because they had the power to shape the laws passed and how the statutes were enforced

Sutherland: White-Collar CriminalitySutherland addressed what should be considered white-collar crime

Argued convictability should be central to the decision on what counts as white-collar crime

Whether the white-collar offense could potentially be prosecuted under criminal law or would have been if pressure were not placed on the prosecuting agency Also recognized the impact of class bias in the courts

Recognized other agencies besides the criminal court must be included (e.g., administrative boards, etc.)

Contended people who are accessories to the crime must also be included when counting white-collar crime

Sutherland: White-Collar CriminalityClaimed crimes of the lower-class and white-collar crimes differ principally in the implementation of the criminal laws that apply to them

Lower-class crime handled by the CJS with penal sanctions, while white-collar crimes often result in no official action or are dealt with as civil cases or by regulatory boards

The difference in the implementation of the criminal law between lower-class crime and white-collar crime is due principally to the difference in the social positions of the two types of offenders

Powerful, white-collar offenders are able to influence the law and often bypass it

Also, white-collar victims are often unorganized, lack technical knowledge, and cannot protect themselves, thus allowing the white-collar offender to better defend himself/herselfSutherland: White-Collar Criminality and The Importance of Studying White-Collar CrimeIn his 1940 piece, Sutherland identified why it was important to study white-collar crime

The publics ignorance about the costs of these white-collar offenses

A single scandal can costs millions with the financial cost of white-collar crime probably several times as great as the financial cost of all the crimes which are customarily regarded as the crime problem

White-collar crime has social costs

White-collar crime lowers morale and produces social disorganization on a large scale

Creates distrust that damages social relations

Lowers confidence in central institutions

Sutherland: White-Collar Criminality and The Importance of Studying White-Collar CrimeWhite-collar crime does take lives and hurts people

There are physical costs where people die, are injured, and are made ill

Examples: defective products, unsafe working conditions

Sutherland: White-Collar Criminality and The Importance of Studying White-Collar CrimeWhite-collar crime calls into question almost all theories of crime

Many theories unable to explain this type of crime

Many traditional theories focus on the role of poverty, and most white-collar offenders are not in poverty

Need to develop general theories of crime that can explain all varieties of illegal conductor

Create theories specific to white-collar crimeor

Develop general theories that use the same core variables to explain all types of crime but argue that the content of those variables differs across offense types

Sutherland did this with differential association theory arguing white-collar crime, like all crime, is learned

Sutherland: White-Collar Criminality and the Importance of Studying White-Collar CrimeCorporations have such a large impact because they touch everyday American life through employment and products we consume

Therefore, we need to study the crime committed by these agencies

Sutherland: White-Collar CriminalityOverall, Sutherland made three important contributions to the field:

Introduced the concept of white-collar crime and noted what kinds of actions fell under this umbrella

Put to rest that crimes by respectable members of society did little damage

Challenged the existing criminological theories of crimeSutherlands Book: White Collar CrimeIn 1949, Sutherland presented the results of his analysis of 70 of the largest industrial and commercial corporations over the course of their lifetime

Found every company had at least one adverse legal decision, and they averaged 14 violations

98% had two or more transgressions

Counted criminal convictions and civil court decisions

Even when restricted to criminal convictions only, 60 percent of the corporations had convictions, with an average of four convictions each

Thus, most corporations were recidivists

Theories of White-Collar CrimeTend to incorporate one or more of four central factors:

Exposure to a criminal culture

Life in a competitive financial system

Unique illegitimate opportunities produced by a legitimate work setting

The decision to break the law by respectable people

Theories of White-Collar CrimeExposure to a criminal culture

Sutherland argued in differential association theory that people offend because they are exposed to definitions favorable to crime and to the techniques needed to commit any given criminal act

Crime is learned by interacting with others who are already involved in criminal pursuits

Applied this theory to crime in disorganized inner-city areas

Also applied this to white-collar crime

Theories of White-Collar CrimeExposure to a criminal culture

Proposed many sec


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