The label of ‘white collar crime’ is typically applied to non-violent crime committed for monetary gain.
The famous sociologist Edwin Sutherland defined white collar crime as;
“a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation”.
Where employees commit white collar crime during the course of their employment with a company, in certain circumstances the company will be held criminally liable for their actions. This is known as corporate crime.
Accounting misstatements, bribery and corruption, cartels, cybercrime, data protection, economic sanctions offences, environmental offences, export control offences, financial markets manipulation, fraud, health and safety offences, insider dealing, media and communications offences, money laundering and tax offences are typical examples of white collar crime offences which are frequently committed in the corporate context.
The law is responding to the challenges presented by white collar crime; as the primary vehicle for commercial activity, unacceptable corporate practices are increasingly made the object of criminal sanction and causes of action in civil law.
Enforcement authorities are becoming more ambitious in the use of invasive powers such as production orders, search warrants and compulsory interrogation.
There is greater international co-operation in cross-border cases, as governments continue to devise new measures aimed at securing the restraint and subsequent confiscation of profits derived from criminal activity.
Corporate defence has developed into a new area of legal and accountancy practice, with corporate governance standards requiring the application of policies and procedures to prevent the occurrence of white collar crime.
Internal and external investigations into concerns of criminal wrongdoing have become a common feature of life in the commercial sector, with this area of practice increasingly characterised by the willingness of enforcement authorities to make large financial settlements in return for admissions of corporate guilt and promises to institute remedial measures.