Corporate crime has been a way of life for as long as corporations have existed; however, there is a need to respect the fact that white collar crimes have become more of a reality in recent decades mostly because the role of corporations has expanded drastically.
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Why it is helpful to have a topology of corporate crime – criteria used and the criteria that is most significant?
It is helpful to have a topology of corporate crime because corporate crimes are immensely diverse. Classifications therefore go a long way in helping one to understand the type of crime being discussed. There are several criteria that can be used to classify a corporate crime. For instance, a crime may be distinguished by the nature of law that has been violated such as environmental law, consumer protection law or civil/ criminal law. In other situations, the criterion used may be the agent that committed the crime such as CEOs, employees, top level or middle level managers. Sometimes, a corporate crime may be classified on the basis of the activity being carried out e.g. corporate stealing, corporate violence or corporate deceptions. Another approach is through the use of service or product involved such as health care providers’ crimes, banking industry crimes or automotive corporate crimes. The criteria that is mostly used to classify white collar crimes is the type of activity and the two types of approaches covered are economic exploitation / abuse of power/ fraud and corporate violence. (Freidrichs, 2007)
How corporate abuse of power, corporate fraud and corporate economic exploitation are interrelated and the segments of society that suffer from these forms of white collar crime?
The latter aspects of corporate crimes are related in that they are perpetuated by the elite that have control over means of production. The Marxist school of thought unites all these crimes by asserting that workers are rarely given the right value for their contributions. In other words, the change created by the labor offered by employees is what leads to the value associated with a certain product. Corporate abuse of power, corporate fraud and economic exploitation all have implications to the average citizen because these crimes often further corporations’ interests while leaving out the needs of the former party. In other words, white collar crimes such as these are often propagated by the need to increase profits at all costs. Little if any regard is given to the welfare of the employees that caused those profits in the first place. In the end, the wealthy keep getting wealthier while the oppressed keep being oppressed through these crimes. (Freidrichs, 2007)
More often than not, these forms of white collar crime are committed due to the fact that corporations have immense control and power in many countries. In developed nations, many corporations have the capacity to influence elections through aggressive lobbying and making campaign contributions. However, in less developed nations, corporations use more unconcealed forms of abuse of power, fraud and economic exploitation. This is largely because manipulating such political processes will place them at an advantage and further advance their interests.
Such forms of white collar crime are normally against the general public rather than against a certain group of people. When an individual takes part in corporate fraud, then they are in fact robbing the taxpayer. This is because revenue that was supposed to be duly collected and used to provide services to the citizenry may not be collected and this comes in the way of effective systems. Likewise, corporate abuse of power also severely affects the general public because they are the ones that keep purchasing products or services made by these corporations yet some of them may engage in practices that place the consumer at a disadvantage. Nonetheless, in other situations, abuse of power directly affects employees of organizations owing to unfair labor practices. The same may be said of economic exploitation
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Types of retail crime and service fraud committed by small businesses
Retail crime may occur in the form of defrauding vulnerable people where the elderly and the poor are exploited by corporations due to their lack of knowledge on product and services. For example, some retail outlets charge ten percent more for some of their products in poorer neighborhoods than in middle class or high income areas. Also, in the funeral business, families are often made to spend much more than they can afford through elaborate funeral arrangements. As if this is not enough, small businesses in the health industry are not immune from such retail crimes. For instance, adult homes and homes for the mentally ill often overcharge their consumers or embezzle money mostly because they are dealing with vulnerable groups. (National White collar crime center, 2009)
Also, retail crime can occur through service business fraud where small businesses may inflate costs or charge consumers for repairs that are non existent. This practice is especially common in the automobile industry. Additionally, other electronic industries such as televisions, computers and the like have been notorious for this form of crime. In the health industry, a survey carried out in 1993 revealed that consumers are robbed off millions of dollars by paying up to thirty three dollars more for prescription drugs in certain pharmacies. The latter sector is actually vulnerable to service fraud because consumers may not be aware of the actual costs that they are supposed to pay for these very commodities.
Occupational crime and vocational crime in the context of white collar crime
Occupational crime may be defined as violations of legal codes during engagements in legal occupations. In other words, these forms of white collar crime are largely committed by professionals or business people. Examples of occupational crimes include service fraud by retailers, plagiarism in the academic industry, falsification of drug content in the pharmaceutical industry and many others. In contrast, avocational crime is committed by persons outside the occupational arena but against members of a certain occupation; for instance income tax evasion and insurance fraud.
The major difference between avocational crime and occupational crime is that the latter is committed by persons in an occupational setting while the latter are not. However, both forms of crimes are normally carried out by persons in legitimate professions who then choose to act in opposition to their duties and responsibilities. Also, both forms of crimes are sometimes perpetuated by one’s status as these place individuals in unique positions to take advantage of others. Also, these two types of white collar crime are normally carried with the major goal of heightening one’s profits or financial status. On the other hand, avocational crime has less drastic effects compared to occupational crime mostly because the former is normally committed against one entity while the latter may be committed against several entities. (Slapper & Tombs, 1999)
The main groups that perpetuate occupational crimes include legal professionals, business persons and unscrupulous health industry personnel. On the other hand avocational crimes are normally carried out by various types of individuals some of whom may be employed while others may be potential consumers of certain services.
Corporate crime is essentially classified on the basis of activities, agents, laws broken or products under consideration; however, the most common criterion use is that of activity. Corporate abuse of power, fraud and economic exploitation are related because they all involve oppression of the poor in order to increase financial gain. Retail crimes often come in the form of price inflations, exploitation of vulnerable groups as well as dishonest product indications. Lastly, occupational crime is committed by a legitimate professional while avocational crime is committed outside such a setting.
David O. Freidrichs. (2007). Trusted Criminals: White Collar Crime in Contemporary Society, 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Thompson-Wadsworth Publishing.
National White collar crime center. (2009). White collar crimes.
Slapper, G. & Tombs, S. (1999). Corporate crime. London: Pearson Education Limited.