White collar crime describes non-violent criminal activity in the commercial or business realm, typically committed for financial gain. This type of criminal enterprise can describe a wide variety of illegal acts and schemes. The one common denominator is crime committed through deceit and in pursuit of monetary gain.
The most common white collar crimes are various types of fraud, embezzlement, tax evasion, and money laundering. Many types of scams and frauds fall into the bucket of white collar crime, including Ponzi schemes and securities fraud such as insider trading. Other common crimes, like insurance fraud and tax evasion, also constitute white collar crimes.
White collar offenses can be committed by individuals or corporations, and criminal statutes governing white collar crime are found at both the state and federal level. For definitions of other relevant legal terms, visit the FindLaw Legal Dictionary.
Many white collar crimes are frauds. Fraud generally involves deceiving someone for monetary gain. One common type of white collar fraud is securities fraud. Securities fraud is fraud around the trading of securities (stocks, for example).
Examples of Securities Fraud
Securities fraud comes in many flavors, but one common type is "insider trading," in which someone with inside information about a company or investment trades on that information in violation of a duty or obligation. For example, an executive knows confidential information about an upcoming company earnings report decides to sell of a chunk of his stock in the company. That would be considered securities fraud, specifically, insider trading.
Another type of securities fraud is when someone seeks investment in a company by knowingly misstating the company's prospects, health or finances. By luring an investor to put up money based on false or misleading information, the company and individuals within it commit securities fraud.
Ponzi schemes and other business-related scams to fraudulently take money from investors have been some of the most famous white collar crimes. These can take all shapes and sizes.
Embezzlement is improperly taking money from someone to whom you owe some type of duty. The most common example is a company employee that embezzles money from his employer for example by siphoning money into a personal account.
Embezzlement can take many forms, however. Lawyers who improperly use client funds commit embezzlement. So do investment advisors who improperly use client funds they have been entrusted to protect.
Criminal tax evasion is a white collar crime through which the perpetrator attempts to avoid taxes they would otherwise owe. Tax evasion can range from simply filing tax forms with false information to illegally transferring property so as to avoid tax obligations. Individuals, as well as businesses can commit criminal tax evasion. As with fraud, there are perhaps infinite ways to commit tax evasion.
Depending on the charges in question, white collar crimes can involve a variety of state and federal laws. An experienced white collar defense attorney can help navigate potential criminal liability, as well as defenses that may be available.