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What Are White Collar Crimes
posted on 11/12/23

White-collar crimes are usually committed by businessmen and women and display the following characteristics:

  • Are non-violent.
  • Involve fact concealment or deceit to avoid losing money.
  • Involve fact concealment or deceit to gain an unfair advantage over others.
  • Can include personal and business indiscretions.

Investigations of white-collar crimes are performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and local and state authorities.

Edwin Sutherland

An Indiana University Professor named Edwin Sutherland first used the term “white-collar crime” in 1940. Sutherland published an article called “White Collar Criminality” in the American Sociological Review. Sutherland studied the crimes committed by “…the upper or white collar class composed of respectable or at least respected business and professional men.”


Examples of accused and/or convicted white-collar perpetrators include Ponzi scheme master Bernie Madoff and crypto-currency innovator Sam Bankman-Fried.

Types of White Collar Crimes

General corporate fraud includes securities law infractions. After a company goes public, it must report quarterly earnings. Sometimes, these earnings are falsified by manipulating financial information so that a business might look more profitable than it really is.

Insider trading–think Martha Stewart–happens when a person makes stock trades based on non-public information and, therefore, gains an unfair advantage over more pedestrian investors.

Money laundering occurs when a criminal has a sizable amount of cash and needs to “wash” the funds so money appears to come from a legitimate source. Before widespread credit card use, restaurants were a favored place to launder money because a successful food operation would deposit large amounts of cash daily. White-collar criminals could give cash to a restaurant owner and, in return, could be given a job with a paycheck. The restaurant owner would keep some funds for taxes and expenses, and the white-collar criminal partner would be able to spend his or her money.

Embezzlement occurs when a trusted employee steals from a business by writing checks and depositing those checks in personal accounts, falsifies invoices, or creates false vendors. Business funds are diverted to an employee’s personal account, and sometimes, crimes like these are not detected for years.

Intellectual property theft happens when software, trade secrets, and inventions are stolen from a company. Even though many companies attempt to protect themselves with rigorous worker employment agreements, intellectual property thefts still regularly occur.

White Collar Crime Temptation

Many eventual white-collar criminals do not originally intend to end up on the wrong side of the law. Unexpected personal expenses can be daunting, and a business manager might feel that their original embezzlement attempt would be temporary. They plan on returning the money ASAP as soon as their financial situation improves. Unfortunately, many times, if a scheme works once, a newly minted white-collar criminal might try it again. If the plan keeps working and fraud is undetected, perpetrators sometimes cannot stop until they are caught.

Consult an Expert Attorney

Bad things can happen to good people, and good people can commit illegal acts. If you have engaged in any criminal activity and are worried about the consequences, do not hesitate to seek qualified legal help. If you need representation for a criminal charge in Cook County, Glasgow & Olsson is uniquely qualified to help. When you need an attorney experience matters, contact them today to learn how the firm’s experience can get you the results you deserve.