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Corporate and White-Collar Crimes are Less Serious than Other Kinds of Crime, Such as Violent Crime

There is a public misconception about white-collar and corporate crime. Many people believe that these crimes are less serious than other forms of crime, such as violent crimes. However, this is far from the truth. White-collar and corporate crimes are just as serious as other forms of crime, if not more so, and the effect they have on society is often more far-reaching. In this essay, I will be discussing the severity of corporate and white-collar crime in comparison to other forms of crime. I will be providing explanations as to why it is a serious issue in our society, and one that people do not always understand.

There are many different forms of white-collar and corporate crime, but all have one thing in common. That is, they are usually “committed by persons from a middle or upper-class socioeconomic background in the course of their occupations”1. White collar crimes include such offences as commercial bribery, tax fraud, environmental offences, and computer-related crimes. Corporate crimes are “a subset of white-collar crime”2 and usually occur with the intent of benefiting a corporation. Because these forms of crime sometimes involve large sums of money and affect a large number of people, their seriousness should not be underestimated.

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While I am not suggesting that other forms of crime are not serious, it is evident that corporate and white-collar crimes have more serious long term consequences than other forms of crime, such as violent crime. When discussing violent crime, I am referring to any act of violence against a person, apart from murder. Such offences include muggings, robbery, and any form of bodily harm. Violent crimes have a negative impact on the victim – usually leaving them in physical pain, and with a general fear of crime. However, in most cases, their pain will heal with time, and they will be able to get back to living their lives. Their experience will enable them to be aware of violent crime, so they can protect themselves from it in the future. However, the consequences of white-collar and corporate crime are much more severe and far-reaching.

There are many reasons why white-collar and corporate crimes are more serious than other forms of crime. Firstly, the amount of people affected by white-collar and corporate crimes is much more than that of violent crime, or other offences such as shoplifting or burglary. With these other crimes, there is usually one person or persons who are directly affected by the crime. However, as White and Haines argue, white-collar and corporate crimes “affect a large number of people directly or indirectly simply because of the capacity of the capitalist to do harm on a large scale”3. One example of a crime by the capitalist that effects the whole of society is media fraud, which has had “devastating effects on the health system generally, and on patients specifically”4. Medifraud can take on many forms, such as overservicing, the unnecessary purchasing of expensive medical equipment, upgrading, and injury enlargement.

In many cases, it is the patients who suffer the consequences of medifraud. In 1984 alone, doctors had defrauded a whopping “$200 million”5 from medical benefit programs. Ultimately, this is the public’s money, and this example illustrates how many people can suffer because of the greedy actions of one. As I have already established, white-collar crime effects a wide range of people. However, the long-term effects of white-collar and corporate crime on these individuals can be life-shattering, if not fatal. In relation to crimes relating to large sums of money, such as fraud, many individuals can lose their life savings. Overall, “the cost of white-collar crime to the Australian community is believed to be much greater than all other forms of crime combined”6. This is true for both individuals and society as a whole. For example, in 1991, after the death of publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, “it was revealed that around 500 million (pounds) had disappeared from his employees’ pension funds”7. This loss of money may have made life more difficult for many of his employees, who would have relied on that money to get by.

Moving away from the financial side of things, white-collar and corporate crime can also do physical damage to an individual. This is mainly in regard to the employer being negligent about the health and safety of their employees. The results of this can be “large scale death and injury”8, with many lives at risk because an employer may have decided to cut corners with health and safety. An example of this is the Longford Esso gas explosion in September 1998, where two workers were killed and eight seriously injured. High Court judge Daryl Dawson believes that “the ultimate cause was the failure of Esso to equip its employees with appropriate knowledge to deal with the events that occurred”9. He further concludes “Esso breached the Occupational Health and Safety Act by failing to maintain a working environment safe and without risks to health”10.

On top of this direct threat to the workers, this explosion affected the entire state, with gas supplies being cut for two weeks. Thus, white-collar and corporate crime can effect so many more people than it may initially seem. Due to the gas cuts, many businesses could not run and lost revenue by not being able to operate for two weeks. Over the two-week period, it is estimated that “about 1.3 million households and 89,000 businesses were affected and export earnings alone, were cut by over $200 million”11. The total amount of money that businesses lost was thought to be about “$1.3 billion as reported by the Financial Review, 27/4/99″12. When we compare these figures to the effect of violent crime, and other forms of crime, we are able to see the true seriousness of white-collar and corporate crime, and the cost they bear to the whole of society.

White-collar and corporate crime may affect the whole of society, however, society is not as aware of white-collar and corporate crimes as they are other forms of crime. As Grabosky and Sutton argue, “despite the prevalence of corporate crime in Australia, public awareness of its dimensions seem limited”13, and thus, individuals do not take the precautions necessary to protect themselves from it. A reason for this is because white-collar crimes are hidden from the public view, and “are carried out under the cover of normal occupational routines”14. On top of this, when somebody is attacked or robbed, “it is clear to all involved…that a crime has taken place”15, however, white-collar and corporate crimes often go undetected, and “the victims of corporate crime may not even be aware of the offence”16.

The role of the media in the portrayal of crime also has an effect on the public’s perception of white-collar and corporate crime in comparison to other forms of crime. Crimes reported on by the media are “the crimes that occur least often”17, such as violent crimes and murder, which is why the public possess a general fear for these kinds of crimes. However, the media pays “relatively little attention”18 to corporate and white-collar crime. Thus, lack of public awareness is another reason why white-collar and corporate crime is more severe than other forms of crime, such as violent crime. Corporate and white-collar crime may have adverse affects on individuals and society as a whole; however, the punishment of these offences does not reflect this.

Firstly, white-collar criminals have power, and “can use their resources to avoid detection and prosecution, and to secure out of court settlements”19. As Muncie and McLaughlin20 suggest, as businessmen, these criminals, even if brought to trial will be able to afford good legal representation, and thus, it is unlikely they will face a sanction that fits the crime they have committed. In comparison, people that commit other forms of crime are more likely to be prosecuted and be punished with a sanction that fits the offence, simply because their offence is often more straightforward, and because they are less likely to have the funds for good legal representation. Other problems in prosecuting white-collar and corporate criminals are related to obtaining evidence.

The main problem in relation to this is that “most white-collar crimes have no witnesses”21, and “the problems for prosecutors in obtaining evidence are immense”22. Hence, although on the surface it may seem as if white-collar and corporate crime is less serious than other forms of crime, such as violent crime, when we look deeper we see that this is not the case. In fact, as I have illustrated, white-collar and corporate crime can have serious repercussions for society as a whole, and for individuals. Thus, in conclusion, white-collar and corporate crimes are serious offences, and their severity in society should not be underestimated.

Bibliography

  • Daly, K (1995) “Celebrated Crime Cases and the Public’s Imagination: From Bad Press to Bad Policy?” in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Vol 28, No.3.
  • Gibbons, DC, 1968. Society, Crime, and Criminal Careers. An Introduction to Criminology, Prentice-Hall, New Jersey.
  • Grabosky, P & Sutton, A (Eds), 1989. Stains on a White-collar. Fourteen Studies in Corporate Crime or Corporate Harm, Century Hutchinson Australia, Milsons Point.
  • Hazlehurst, KM (Ed), 1996. Crime and Justice. An Australian Textbook in Criminology, LBC, North Ryde.
  • Healey, K (Ed), 1996. Corporate Crime, The Spinney Press, Balmain.
  • Muncie, J & McLaughlin, E (Eds), 1996. The Problem of Crime, Sage Publications, Milton Keynes.
  • Reckless, WC, 1967. The Crime Problem, Meredith Publishing Company, New York.
  • White, R & Haines, F, 1996. Crime and Criminology, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne.

Websites:

  • Gas Explosion and Supply Crisis. EMA Disaster Events Date Tracking System (EMATrack). 15 April 2002. http://www.ema.gov.au/archives/ematrack/EMATrackEvent6615.htm (24 April 2002)
  • The Longford Gas Explosion. Ourcivilisation.com. November 2000. http://www.ourcivilisation.com/decline/gasbang.htm(24 April 2002)
  • Hazlehurst, KM (Ed), 1996. Crime and Justice. An Australian Textbook in Criminology, LBC, North Ryde.p 257
  • Hazlehurst, KM (Ed), 1996. Crime and Justice. An Australian Textbook in Criminology, LBC, North Ryde.p258
  • White, R & Haines, F, 1996. Crime and Criminology, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne. p 106
  • Grabosky, P & Sutton, A (Eds), 1989. Stains on a White-collar. Fourteen Studies in Corporate Crime or Corporate Harm, Century Hutchinson Australia, Milsons Point. p 77
  • Grabosky, P & Sutton, A (Eds), 1989. Stains on a White-collar. Fourteen Studies in Corporate Crime or Corporate Harm, Century Hutchinson Australia, Milsons Point. p 7
  • Healey, K (Ed), 1996. Corporate Crime, The Spinney Press, Balmain. p 21
  • Muncie, J & McLaughlin, E (Eds), 1996. The Problem of Crime, Sage Publications, Milton Keynes. p 278
  • Muncie, J & McLaughlin, E (Eds), 1996. The Problem of Crime, Sage Publications, Milton Keynes. p 230
  • The Longford Gas Explosion. Ourcivilisation.com. November 2000. http://www.ourcivilisation.com/decline/gasbang.htm(24 April 2002)
  • The Longford Gas Explosion. Ourcivilisation.com. November 2000. http://www.ourcivilisation.com/decline/gasbang.htm(24 April 2002)
  • Gas Explosion and Supply Crisis. EMA Disaster Events Date Tracking System (EMATrack). 15 April 2002. http://www.ema.gov.au/archives/ematrack/EMATrackEvent6615.htm (24 April 2002)
  • Gas Explosion and Supply Crisis. EMA Disaster Events Date Tracking System (EMATrack). 15 April 2002. http://www.ema.gov.au/archives/ematrack/EMATrackEvent6615.htm (24 April 2002)
  • Grabosky, P & Sutton, A (Eds), 1989. Stains on a White-collar. Fourteen Studies in Corporate Crime or Corporate Harm, Century Hutchinson Australia, Milsons Point. p xii
  • Muncie, J & McLaughlin, E (Eds), 1996. The Problem of Crime, Sage Publications, Milton Keynes. p 243
  • Muncie, J & McLaughlin, E (Eds), 1996. The Problem of Crime, Sage Publications, Milton Keynes. p 243
  • Muncie, J & McLaughlin, E (Eds), 1996. The Problem of Crime, Sage Publications, Milton Keynes.p245
  • Daly, K (1995) “Celebrated Crime Cases and the Public’s Imagination: From Bad Press to Bad Policy?” in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Vol 28, No.3.p9
  • Muncie, J & McLaughlin, E (Eds), 1996. The Problem of Crime, Sage Publications, Milton Keynes.p243
  • Muncie, J & McLaughlin, E (Eds), 1996. The Problem of Crime, Sage Publications, Milton Keynes. p 255
  • Muncie, J & McLaughlin, E (Eds), 1996. The Problem of Crime, Sage Publications, Milton Keynes. pp254-256.
  • Hazlehurst, KM (Ed), 1996. Crime and Justice. An Australian Textbook in Criminology, LBC, North Ryde.p260
  • Hazlehurst, KM (Ed), 1996. Crime and Justice. An Australian Textbook in Criminology, LBC, North Ryde. p260

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Corporate and White-Collar Crimes are Less Serious than Other Kinds of Crime, Such as Violent Crime. (2021, Jun 16). Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://essayscollector.com/essays/corporate-and-white-collar-crimes-are-less-serious-than-other-kinds-of-crime-such-as-violent-crime/