The term “white-collar crimes” refers to a wide range of typically nonviolent, business- and government-related crimes perpetrated for financial gain. Specifying the activities that this term encompasses falls within the scope of state and federal legislation.
White-collar crime examples include:
- Public corruption
- Antitrust violations
- Money laundering
- Bankruptcy fraud
- Corporate fraud
- Securities and commodities fraud
- Internet and computer fraud
- Mortgage fraud
- Financial institution fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Trade secret theft and economic espionage
- Bank fraud and embezzlement
- Environmental law violations
- Fraud against the government
- Insider trading
- Election law violations
- Intellectual property theft
- Mass marketing fraud
- Tax evasion
- Healthcare fraud
- Public fraud
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)
When international businesses engage in activities considered white collar crimes, the offense(s) enter into the scope of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Under FCPA, American businesses cannot make payments to government officials with the goal of getting or keeping business in foreign countries. The act also forbids payments to a third party with the understanding that such payment will serve the purpose of being a bribe to a foreign government. Similarly, the act serves to prohibit money laundering.
If a foreign business is listed on the U.S. Stock Exchange, they, too, are beholden to the FCPA, as are any businesses that are doing business within the U.S.
Penalties and Punishment for White Collar Crime
When the government takes legal action for white-collar crimes, the defendant is typically an individual, but corporations can also be sanctioned for such crimes. Penalties for offenses of this nature vary, depending on many variables, starting with the type of crime. Common penalties include:
- Paying prosecution costs
- Home detention
- Supervised release
- Community confinement
For the most part, a federal white-collar crime is enforced by the following agencies:
- Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- S. Postal Inspection Service
- The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
- Commodity Futures Trading Commission
States appoint their own agencies for the purpose of enforcing white-collar crimes at this level.
Common White-Collar Crimes in Pennsylvania
Some of the most common types of white-collar crimes seen at the state level in Pennsylvania are embezzlement and fraud.
Embezzlement in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania charges embezzlement as a type of theft. The prosecutor must prove that the defendant owed a fiduciary duty to the property’s owner and then used this role as a means with which to take property from the owner. Penalties are based on the value of the stolen property, as follows:
- Greater than $2,000: felony in the third degree
- Greater than $100,000: felony in the second degree
- Greater than $500,000: felony in the first degree
Fraud in Pennsylvania
When an individual deceives another person or party for financial gain, this constitutes fraud. Types of fraud include:
- Insurance fraud: Attempting to deceive the insurance company in order to cash in on one’s policy.
- Mortgage fraud: Typically involving either misstating facts or omitting information on a mortgage loan.
- Securities fraud: Insider trading and other misinformation related to investments.
The Role of a Whistleblower
Whistleblowers play a vital role in the prosecution of certain types of white-collar crime in governmental settings. These individuals, typically employees, tip off law enforcement or government officials about any illicit or publicly injurious activities in which the employer may be involved. These individuals receive protection from employer retaliation by the Whistleblower Act [5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(8)]. Specifically, the whistleblower is protected when they disclose information about:
- Regulatory or legal violations
- Gross waste of funds
- Gross mismanagement
- Abuse of authority
- “Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety”
Responsible Corporate Officer Doctrine
The Responsible Corporate Officer (RCO) doctrine also can play a major role in prosecuting a white-collar crime in private business settings. This doctrine states that an individual with a high-ranking officer role within a corporation can be charged and found guilty of a crime in which he played no part—even a crime of which they were not aware—because a person at this level of responsibility is presumed to have awareness of wrongdoing within the corporation.
What a White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyer Does
Much like personal injury and other civil litigation, white-collar crime practice entails significant research. Because it is such a highly specialized area, however, a white-collar crime attorney spends a lot of time developing facts and arguments.
The penalties for what are considered white collar crimes can be severe, and a criminal defense lawyer who works in these types of cases will craft defense strategies geared toward either reducing or dismissing charges.
Often, the prosecution’s case hinges on proving intent. A criminal attorney will build a case of hard facts that serve to poke holes in the bits of evidence the prosecutor has pieced together to establish intent.
A White Collar Crime Attorney Can Help Protect Your Legal Rights
If you have been charged with a white-collar crime, the McKenzie Law Firm, P.C. can construct a defense strategy on your behalf and represent your legal interests, ensuring your rights are protected.
Call McKenzie Law Firm, P.C. today to schedule a legal consultation: (610) 680-7842.