Are You Committing a White Collar Crime?

What Is ‘White Collar Crime?’

White collar crime involves criminal acts that use deceit or concealment to obtain money, property or services, or to secure a business/obtain a professional advantage. White collar crimes are considered “paper” crimes or crimes that are committed in the workplace within white collar industries. White collar crimes are usually non-violent, but can involve millions of dollars. It is estimated that white collar crime can cost the general public roughly 14 times the amount of blue collar crime (or $200 billion/year).


What Are Some Different Types of White Collar Crimes?

White collar crime can come in dozens of shapes and sizes. Some include: insider trading (using nonpublic information to trade a public company’s stock), insurance fraud (claimant attempting to obtain extra benefits, or the insurer knowingly denying some benefit that’s due), forgery (producing a copy of a document, signature, banknote, or work of art without permission), kickbacks (a bribe where the remuneration is negotiated before hand), extortion (obtaining something through force or threats), embezzlement (misappropriation of funds), counterfeiting (creating fake replicas of real products), bribery (offering payment in return for something), blackmail (demanding something from a person in return for not revealing compromising that person), larceny (theft of personal property), laundering (concealing the origins of money), racketeering (organized crime rings that typically embezzle money), and many others.


Who Typically Prosecutes White Collar Crimes?

White collar crimes can fall under either state or federal jurisdictions. A state prosecutor may cover some cases, but due to the nature of white collar crimes, many cases will cross state or international boarders and the federal government typically steps in. In these situations, a federal prosecutor known as an Assistant United States Attorney will lead the prosecution


What Is Restitution?

Restitution is when the court orders the defendant to pay the victim or victims a sum of money intended to compensate the victim(s) for the monetary cost of the white collar crime. Some people convicted of white collar crimes are also required to pay fines on top of this restitution.


What Is Forfeiture?

Though criminal forfeiture laws differ from state to state, but in many white collar crime cases, the government will seek forfeiture when the property is used in the commission of a criminal offense or was obtained through criminal acts. For example, if a house was brought using money obtained through criminal acts, then the courts can potentially seize the property under forfeiture laws.


What Is Disgorgement?

Disgorgement refers to the process of legally forfeiting ALL illegally obtained profits as part of a criminal sentence. Disgorgement can be ordered in both private and civil proceedings, with civil disgorgement sentences on the rise in recent years. Within SEC enforcement situations, the SEC will approximate the value of revenues obtained through illegal acts (meaning that they could retain most of their overall profits still). The burden of proof then shifts to the defense to show that the estimate is unreasonable. Disgorgement can also extend to third parties who did not personally break the law, but benefitted from the defendant’s breaking of the law.


What Is The Punishment For White Collar Crimes?

The punishments for white collar criminals can vary drastically. There was once a low-level accountant who received nearly 25 years in prison for inflating the company’s revenue – but there have also been wealthy entrepreneurs who have received merely probation after hiding millions of dollars in a Swiss bank account. There are some federal sentencing guidelines in place to provide a little structure for the judge’s to determine an appropriate sentence, but for the most part, the sentencing is left up to the judges themselves. These federal guidelines weigh how much the defendant gained from the crime, and the losses inflicted on others to determine the sentencing, but many people complain that sentencing for white collar criminals is too light for the levity of their crimes

Revised: July 6, 2022, 7:51 a.m.
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