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  • Research on White Collar Crime

    Thinking About White Collar Crime: Matters of Conceptualization and Research

    Susan F? Shapiro

    December 1980

    U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of Justice

  • National Institute of Justice

    Harry M. Bratt

    Acting Director

    This project was supported by grant number 78NI-AX-0017 awarded to Yale Law School,Yale University, by the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, U.S. Department of Justice, under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, as amended. Points of view or opinions stated in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

    The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration reserves the right to reproduce, publish, translate, or otherwise use and to authorize others to publish and use all or any part of the copyrighted material contained in this publication.

    Copyright 01980 by Susan I? Shapiro

  • V ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . * . . . * e * . e e * e . . .

    PREFACE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .vii I. CONCEPTIONS OF "WHITE COLLAR CRIME" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

    Social Status and Social Location Criteria . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Socialstatus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Social Location . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

    The Role of Organizations in Illegality . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Discriminating Offenses in Organizational Contexts . .

    Differentiating Individuals. Organizations and Their Social mations . . . . . . . . . .

    Characteristics of Behavior . . . . . . . . . . Deception and Concealment . . . . . . . . . Fraud. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Self-dealing and Corruption . . . . . . . . Regulatory Offenses . . . . . . . . . . . . Additional Distinctions . . . . . . . . . .

    The Issue of Criminality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 I1. RESEARCH SENDA ON WHITE 03LLAR ILLEGALITY AND ITS CYXJTROL . 29

    The Nature. Organization. and Social Location of White Collar Illegality. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

    The Form and Social Organization of White Collar Illegality. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

    The Social Location of White Collar Illegality . . . . . 31 The Normative Dimension of White Collar Illegality . . . . . . . 35

    Attitudes and Values Concerning White Collar Crime . . . .35 Legal Developnent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Norms and Social Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

    The Enforcement of Nonns Proscribing White Collar Illegality . . 40 The Development of Enforcement Organizations . . . . . . 41 Enforcement Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Enforcement Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Enforcement Impact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 The Cost of Enforcement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48

    iii

  • The Disposit ion and Sanctioning of White Col la r Illegality. . . . 49 The Nature of Case Disposit ion . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Prosecutor ia l Success . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 The Nature of Sanctions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Deterrence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

    I11.CONCLUSION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

  • ABSTRACT

    This paper was prepared to a s s i s t newcomers to think conceptually and theoretically about white col lar crime. The paper has two parts. The f i r s t c r i t i c a l l y reviews the conceptual history of white col lar crime and proposes dis t inct ions tha t might al leviate same of the confusion that has plagued the usage of the tern. The notion tha t organizations play dist inct ive roles in the social organization of i l l ega l i ty is developed and offered as a comon denominator tha t captures many of the conceptions of white col lar c r i m e f i l l i n g the l i terature. However, distinctions based on behavioral c r i t e r i a a re ultimately recomnended, and three generic behavioral types -- fraud, self-dealing/corruption, and regulatory offenses are described. The second pa r t of the paper suggests a ser ies of research questions and theoretical issues concerned w i t h the nature and social control of white col lar crime. They include consideration of the nature, organization, and social location of white col lar i l legal i ty ; the normative dimension of white co l l a r i l legal i ty ; the enforcement of norms proscribing white col lar i l legal i ty ; and the disposition and sanctioning of white col lar i l legal i ty . The paper provides an extensive bibliography.

  • PREFACE

    This is a substant ia l ly revised version of the "Background Paper on White Collar Crime" (Shapiro 1976) which was prepared about four years ago f o r a multidisciplinary audience of researchers and facul ty involved in the Yale program i n white c o l l a r i l l e g a l i t y research. Its purpose was ta assist newcomers to the area to think conceptually and theoret ical ly about white c o l l a r crime.

    During the intervening years, I have benefited from par t ic ipat ing in the grawth of the research program and learned from the experiences and ins igh ts of the researchers and faculty associated with it. I have profited as we11 from contacts with outside researchers and o f f i c i a l s t ha t a program o f t h i s magnitude generates, and especially from the innumerable lessons derived from designing, securing access, and conducting research a t a federa l regulatory agency i n connection with the research program. These ins igh ts and perspectives are reflected i n t h i s revised paper a s a re new conceptual, theoret ical , or empirical developnents t h a t anteceded the o r ig ina l version.

    This paper has two parts: The f i r s t p a r t explores the conceptual h i s tory of white c o l l a r crime and proposes d i s t inc t ions that might a l l ev i a t e som of the confusion t h a t has plagued the usage of the term. The second p a r t suggests a series of research questions and theoret ical issues concerned with the nature and social control of white co l l a r crime.

    The paper has k n e f i t ed from comnents and suggestions made by par t ic ipants in the "Faculty Seminar on White Collar Crime," a t the Yale Law School in February 1976, and those of Laura S h i l l Schrager. Special thanks go to William E l l i o t t , Diana Polise Garra, Jack Katz, Kenneth Mann, Albert J. Reiss, Jr., and Stanton Wheeler, f o r t h e i r cormtents and f o r the stimulating in t e l l ec tua l environment they have provided.

  • I. CONCEPTIONS OF WITE tBLLAR CRIME

    More than thir ty-f ive years a f t e r the introduction of the expression "white c o l l a r crime" in to the criminological vernacular, the Deputy Attorney General of the United S ta t e s i n an address to professional criminologists remrked on the d i f f i c u l t y of defining the phrase and on the absence of any consis tent or useful characterizations of such events ( q l e r 1975, pp. 1-2). This observation is neither unique nor disputable. An examination of the various def in i t ions of "white c o l l a r crime" and t h e i r actual usage in the 1i te ra ture yie lds fundamental inconsistencies and incompatibil i t ies . It is unclear whether the term characterizes ac t s or actors , types of offenses or types of of fenders; or whether it re fe r s to the soc ia l location of deviant behavior, the soc ia l role or soc ia l s t a tu s of the actor, the modus operandi o f the behavior, or the soc ia l re la t ionship of victim and of fender. There are frequent disputes over whether the phenomenon is necessarily "white co l la r , " and even more ser ious disagreement over whether the behavior is criminal. In this respect, the label is c lear ly a m i s n o m e r .

    These fundamental con usions r e s u l t from the f a c t t h a t "white co l l a r crime" has always been a catch-all category f o r social theorists, policy analysts, and l a w enforcement o f f i c i a l s . It has referred to tha t group of o f fenders (wealthy, respectable persons, corporations, etc. ) f o r whom t r ad i t i ona l explanations of criminal behavior a r e m t appropriate or to tha t group of offenses to which the criminal jus t ice system responds d i f fe ren t ly -- i f a t all . The category - white co l l a r crime - generally has been used to demonstrate the incompleteness of our knowledge, the inadequacy of our theory, or the in jus t ice of our soc ia l control responses. Indeed it is this programmatic function t h a t has served as the glue to uni te many disparate norms, persons, and social s t ructures . That the variance within the class of white c o l l a r crime often has been greater than tha t between categories of t rad i t iona l crime and par t icu la r instances of white a o l l a r crime has been ignored. The relevance of the construct was its residual s t a tu s and the polemical and ideological pulrposes which its inherent contras t with t rad i t iona l crime could serve. Tnat this residual construct was multidimensional and its elements nei ther defined nor enumerated was not t reated a s a problem. Indeed, Edwin Sutherland, the father of the white c o l l a r crime concept, admitted i n h i s def ini t ion of the term t h a t "this def in i t ion is arb i t ra r

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