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Topology of Corporate Crime and White Collar Crime

Corporate crime covers a very wide range of lawbreaking activities that include violations of accounting such as false statements of corporate assets and profits, occupational safety and health hazards; unfair labor practices, misleading packaging of products, environmental violations as well as illegal domestic political contribution among others. Recognition of corporate crime is increasing although rarely do corporate law violations get high publicity through press and TV. Seldom are they ever on the front page of the newspaper and recent studies have confirmed that nearly all the publicity of corporate law violations is carried on the inside pages of a newspaper. The perception is that corporate law violations are typically not as serious or numerous as conventional crimes which get nearly all the publicity. However, corporate crime has a far wider effect on society than conventional or occupational offenses. In addition, the consequences of corporate crime are more severe than those of conventional offenses. White-collar crime is one area of criminology that has been overwhelmed by conceptual confusion. The typological of the white-collar crime encompasses an exceptionally broad range of activities that can only be analyzed and discussed coherently when broken down into types. Certainly, the significance of typologies within criminology generally is well established, despite some criticisms of limitations or distortions inherent in existing criminological typologies. For more than four decades, Geis has long favored the typological approach of white-collar crime (1982). In his approach, he has argued for recognition of the term itself as relativistic and heuristic. Corporate crime and occupational crime are pure forms of white-collar crime. Corporate abuse of power, corporate fraud, and corporate economic exploitation have a fundamental link with the core concept of white-collar crime. Such corporate crime typically involves corporate personnel on various levels for implementation, from CEOs to lowly workers in the sector. Others like abuse of power characterize governmental crime with state and political white-collar crime as the major types. The perpetrators are those holding official positions in the government. It also encompasses an array of activities ranging from notary public who takes a bribe to genocide. In most cases, with a corporate crime, the low and the middle class mostly suffer. For instance, without enough money to bribe a magistrate or a human resource to get a job in a company, one may end up miserably. The high class has money and can buy everything from jobs to security. Small businesses also commit several retail crimes and service frauds on day to day basis. The fraud comes in different sizes and shapes and is given different names such as internal fraud, occupational or retail dishonesty. Three types of fraud have been established; bribery and corruption, financial statement crime, and asset misappropriation. Asset misappropriation is most common easier to understand. This includes crimes such as theft f money, payroll fraud, theft of services, and check forgery among others. Over 91% of fraud schemes occur in retail businesses. Bribery and corruption is the second frequently occurring fraud scheme which includes crimes such as bribes to influence decision making, manipulation of contracts, kickbacks, and substitution of inferior goods among others. Financial statement fraud is the least frequent and covers 10% of all small business crimes. However, statistics have shown that it is the most expensive. It involves the manipulation of financial statements to either conceal fraud or create opportunities for a person or the entire business. Such crime includes the manipulation of stock prices, favorable loan terms, and pyramid schemes. Occupational crime is defined as ‘any act punishable by law that is committed through opportunity created in the course of an occupation that is legal’ (Greens, 1997). Occupational crime is conceived as financially driven crimes committed by middle and upper-class individuals within the context of any legitimate occupation regardless of socioeconomic status, financial and non-financial forms of crime. In addition, it encompasses deviance committed within the context of any legitimate occupation and conventional criminal behavior committed in the setting of the workplace. It ranges from that which conforms to widely held norms within the occupation such as taking kickbacks, tax evasion, and many others to that which is wholly at odds with occupational norms such as sexual molestation and violence against co-workers. Avocational crime is a form of borderline white-collar crime that takes place not so much within the occupation of the offender as in the peripheral zone associated with that occupation or the trust generated by the respectability of the offender (Friedrichs, 1996). This includes income tax evasion, insurance fraud, and credit fraud. Income tax evasion is an illegal violation of trust generally committed by respectable people for personal gain. Although it may not take place within the occupation, the taxes evaded are usually due to income earned in the course of that legitimate occupation. Avocational crime drives home the damage that white-collar crime can do to public trust. For instance, Catalina Vasquez was convicted to 4 months in prison for income tax evasion during his tenure as Treasurer of the United States whose name appeared on all US paper money. The result is that millions of Americans carry bills whose values are certified with the signature of a white-collar crime that is a convicted fellow. The criminal justice faces two major problems when it comes to white-collar crimes: the invisibility of the offense and the respectability of the offenders. White-collar crimes tend to be less visible than other forms of crime because they are committed by respectable people in the course of their occupations. Since the offenders do not usually enter the territory of the victim as in burglary, the white-collar crime is subtle that the victim never even realizes it has happened (Robin, 1974).

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  1. Friedrichs, David O. (1996). Trusted Criminals: White Collar Crime in Contemporary Society. Belmont, CA: ITP/Wadsworth Publishing Co.
  2. Green, Gary (1997). Occupational Crime. Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall Publishers.
  3. Geis, Gilbert (1982). On White Collar Crime. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
  4. Robin, Gerald (1974). White Collar Crime and Employee Theft. Crime and Delinquency, 20(3), 251–62.

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