“There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy.” – Joseph Pulitzer
A little over eighty years ago, during his 1939 address to the American Sociological Association, Edwin H. Sutherland coined the term “white-collar criminal.” Ten years later, in 1949, he published the seminal White Collar Crime. The original version of his book, which included case studies and called out corporate offenders, was censored until 1983. Over the last seventy years, corporations have taken on the role of legal entities – they’ve become “people” who can commit economic crimes. Swindles perpetrated by colluding firms now compete with accounting fraud and asset misappropriation.
Fraud is inherently linked to economic activity: The Roman god of commerce, Mercury, was also the god of trickery and thieves. No single economic system or period in history has been devoid of a spectacular scam. Fast-forward to the 21st century – the Internet age – and threats have become ever more complex. Cybercrime is now rampant, and, thanks to sophisticated technology, tech-savvy fraudsters keep pushing the envelope.
Shrouded in secrecy, white-collar malfeasance, though usually nonviolent, tends to have more devastating impacts on corporations, families, and individuals than street crime. Often seemingly respectable citizens, white-collar criminals go to great lengths to conceal their activities, making detection and prosecution difficult. And as punishment seldom involves more than a slap on the wrist, it is no wonder that such crimes breed selfishness and cynicism worldwide, fraying the very fabric of the social contract.
The following are examples of IJCSM cases that focus on the topic: