What Constitutes White-Collar Crime?

The idea of white-collar crime is nothing new. It was, in fact, a term coined as far back as 1939, and is known as a term that is nearly synonymous with business fraud or any serious fraud, cheating, lying, or stealing perpetuated by a business or executive professionals. While it may seem a lofty crime, one that does not necessarily affect its victims immediately and physically the way that violent crime does, white-collar crimes are in no way victimless. One executive who has the responsibility and ability to control one family’s finances, for example, can destroy that family’s well-being and future with the click of a mouse.

During the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009, the national dialogue focused, briefly, on just how serious these crimes truly are, and what appropriate punishments look like. Critics of the way that the government handled the crash and the recovery say that the government did not address the executives who were, at least in part, responsible for causing the crash.

There are many types of white-collar crime that the FBI recognizes. Some of these include, but are not limited to:

  •      Mortgage fraud;
  •      Piracy/intellectual property theft;
  •      Identity theft;
  •      Corporate/bankruptcy fraud;
  •      Asset forfeiture; or
  •      Market manipulation fraud.

Major cases of white-collar crime include Enron and Bernie Madoff. After Madoff’s highly publicized trial, the government began to crack down on white-collar crime, and perpetuating such activities is more difficult than ever. It can be tricky, however, to understand just what is a good or shrewd business practice, and what is considered illegal. Laws are lax in many places and allow for interpretation. What may seem shady, may not actually be illegal. If, however, you are in a situation in which you feel that your company is encouraging practices that end up being more detrimental to clients or consumers than good, you could be in a situation that could land you in jail. Never engage in an activity you feel could be wrong without first speaking with a lawyer.

If you or someone you know has been accused of a white-collar crime, the most important first step is to seek legal counsel. Do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced Santa Clara County criminal defense attorney today.

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