White-collar crimes demystified

On Behalf of | May 26, 2021 | White Collar Crimes |

White-collar crimes are often crimes of mystery that are not relatively easy to decipher by the ordinary population. Edward Sutherland, an American sociologist, can be credited for coining the infamous phrase ‘white-collar crimes’ in 1939. In coming up with the term, Sutherland correlated that the crimes are associated with persons who wield a significant amount of power and wealth.  

Sutherland’s theory has been quite controversial, especially the classification that white-collar crimes are wealth-based offenses. Those who oppose the theory opine that since individuals commit crimes, the classification of offenses based on societal status is wrong.

Types of white-collar crimes

A white-collar crime is a generic term to identify an array of crimes. It is often possible that someone commits a white-collar crime without knowing it. White-collar crimes include the following: 

• Bribery 

• Antitrust violations

• Embezzlement

• Healthcare fraud

• Corruption

• Money laundering

• Counterfeiting 

• Insurance fraud

• Tax fraud

Possible defenses for white-collar crimes

Not all persons accused of being white-collar criminals are indeed criminals. Therefore, investigations and trials are part of the litigation to know if they are culpable.   

With respect to corporate institutions, it is a plausible defense to argue that an employee acted on their own and the company did not sanction their actions. As criminal culpability is individual, an employee cannot bind a company or fellow employees if the actions they undertook were clearly an overreach.   

Additionally, a company can mitigate its culpability if it can show that they have a clear policy on averting white-collar crimes and that such policy was either ignored or subverted in committing an offense.  

Employees who commit white-collar offenses have several defenses that they can debate. They may argue the perceived legitimacy of their actions at the time based on instructions given by someone in management. An employee can also argue that they had no intent to undertake the act. Objectively assessed, if they have received no financial benefit, it would be impossible for a prosecutor to obtain a favorable judgment.  

On the other hand, a person accused of a white-collar crime may voluntarily hand over any money or benefit that the white-collar crime had conferred. This gesture is commonly exchanged for leniency; having a plea deal would enable such a person to escape lengthy prison terms. 


White-collar crimes are often challenging cases requiring specific legal expertise to assess each party’s prosecution or defense strategy. An accusation is not a sentence, and proper investigations must be conducted to identify the truth and legal repercussions in each individual matter.