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What are White Collar Crimes?

Between the less-than-stellar movements and motivations of the UK’s political elite, and the increasingly shaky forms that many UK industries are taking, public consensus on the legitimacy of national enterprise is shifting. According to a recent survey, nearly a third of UK adults have noticed a rise in white-collar crime since May 2022. But what is white-collar crime?

What is a White-Collar Crime?

The term ‘white-collar crime’ describes a specific subset of criminal activities, which are typically tied to illegal and non-violent attempts to steal, sequester or generate money. White-collar crimes can encompass acts of corporate malfeasance and subterfuge, and can be targeted to result in business success, competitor failure or personal enrichment.

The ‘white collar’ of the name borrows from American social colloquialism, indicating the white collar of the business suit; the term introduces social class as a fundament for the crimes in question, where ‘blue-collar crimes’ (a term more often used overseas) describe crimes of opportunity more commonly associated with those who have less – ‘unskilled’ workers, and working-class people on the poverty line.

Types of White-Collar Crime

One of the more common forms that white-collar crime takes is embezzlement, whereby someone appropriates funds or assets from a business in order to make personal gains. This can amount to simple theft of money or assets, but can also mean skimming money from a business’ profits in order to invest it and pocket the returns. Another common white-collar crime is insider trading, whereby a business executive, leader or government official uses privileged or confidential information – i.e.: the upcoming merger of two businesses – to make money on the stock market.

The Impact of White-Collar Crime

The assertion that there are no victimless crimes is true, at least, for white-collar crimes – even if financial processes and business complexities obfuscate the otherwise clear line between perpetrator and victim. There are many negative impacts, both direct and indirect, which can result from white-collar crime, or even just the allegation of it. 

If a member of a business’ executive team is accused of embezzlement or insider trading, without a properly-mounted professional, press and legal defence, the reputation of the company and its affiliates would be undeniably tainted. Clients, partners, projects and future profitability would be negatively impacted, harming the longevity of the business and potentially risking jobs in the process.

As for the crimes themselves, there are the direct impacts – which, when it comes to white-collar crimes committed for personal gain, can result in loss of money and loss of resources at the very least. Successful instances of intellectual copyright theft or corporate fraud can harm other businesses regionally, nationally and internationally, in turn threatening jobs on an industry-wide scale.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that many white-collar criminals are operating invisibly, and with impunity. The difficulties inherent to unpicking crimes-in-progress, and the positions of power which many perpetrators hold, make it difficult to either discover or litigate them; as a result, the true real-world impact of white-collar crime can never truly be known.

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