Updated: Feb 7
White collar crime refers to those offenses that are designed to produce financial gain using some form of deception. This type of crime is usually committed by people in the business world who, as a result of their job position, are able to gain access to large amounts of other people's money. What makes white-collar crime so tempting? One reason is that a person who steals from a business can rationalize that his or her theft will hardly put a dent in the CEO's handsome salary. When a company suffers from fraud from any source, it must make up for it by raising costs, which ultimately means higher prices for consumers. It can also mean less pay for employees and even cutting jobs. The effect can continue to ripple when it comes to those employees or investors who now find themselves unable to pay off loans, and credit becomes harder to obtain. When stock fraud or insider trading scandals break out, like they did in the 1980s in the United States, it can cause investors to lose faith in the stock market. Scandals like Enron can also wipe out innocent employees' retirement accounts.
Obviously, this kind of crime can have an enormous impact on society. The exact toll it has, however, is hard to quantify, both because of the wide ripples and the dilemma of finding accurate statistics.
Numerous factors make white-collar crime statistics hard to come by. As we discussed earlier, no consensus exists on a definition, and people disagree on what counts as a white-collar crime. Even if there were a consensus, however, accurate statistics are difficult to gather because the crime goes unreported and unpunished so often. Enron and other publicized scandals, it seems, are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.