White-Collar Crimes: Unravelling The Complex World Of Corporate Legal Defence
White-collar crime doesn’t get a lot of press. By its very nature, it’s usually difficult to understand (even for the individuals committing it). White-collar crimes are also subtle compared to violent crimes and notoriously hard to uncover.
In this article, we’re going to discuss white-collar crimes at length—what they are, why they’re so complicated, and what legal defences might be available to people and organizations who have been accused of these crimes.
That’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started:
The Many Kinds of White-Collar Crimes
White-collar crimes are hard to define—corporate crimes, insider trading, and tax evasion can all be qualified as white-collar crimes. Here are some of the qualities that can help identify a white-collar crime:
- There is no violence or damage to physical property.
- Committing the crime takes knowledge, access, or other privileges.
- The purpose of the crime is financial gain.
Individuals, corporations, and other organizations can all commit white-collar offences. Examples of white-collar offences include:
- Corporate fraud
- Securities fraud
- Money laundering
- Tax evasion and tax fraud
- Insider trading
- Insurance fraud
- Identity theft
- Ponzi schemes
As you can see, “white-collar crime” is an incredibly broad category—everything from an individual lying about an insurance claim to hiding millions of dollars from the government can be considered a white-collar crime.
Why White-Collar Crime Is So Complicated
We’ve already established one of the reasons that white-collar crime is so difficult to understand—so many different crimes fall under its broad umbrella! Here are a few other reasons it’s difficult to successfully prosecute white-collar crime:
Ignorance of the Crime
There’s an important legal principle in Canada—ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking it. This is true in white-collar crimes, too; oddly enough, however, ignorance can be used as a defence when it comes to certain white-collar crimes.
Supervisors, best practices, and corporate culture can all encourage an individual to believe that they are not only not committing a crime but that they are indeed performing their duties to the best of their ability. Imagine a world where every gas station price is fixed no matter who owns the company—can an individual franchise owner be held accountable for fixing prices?
Who Is Responsible?
This leads to the next problem—who is actually responsible for the white-collar crime? In our price-fixing example, is the criminal the person who actually set the prices, the person who told them what price to set, or someone else entirely? When a person is accused of tax evasion, how much of the responsibility falls on their accounting team?
These are actually fairly simple examples—but white-collar crimes are notoriously complex, and determining who—if anyone—is at fault can be almost impossible. As such, many defendants can accurately claim that they are not criminally responsible for the crime.
Finally, consider the incredible complexity of the financial and legal frameworks surrounding white-collar crimes. The legal landscape here is filled with precedent for cases involving financial institutions, defrauding investors, stock market manipulation, and other white-collar offences, but no two white-collar crimes are exactly alike.
Then, there’s the evidence—prosecutors may need to look through mountains of paperwork, including financial statements, emails, text messages, corporate documents, and more. All of this and more may be needed to prove criminal activity—and all of it may also be used to prove a defendant’s innocence.
Defending a white-collar crime is a complicated process, but a good criminal lawyer can use several different tools. Which ones they’ll choose depends entirely on the case.
When you’ve been accused of a white-collar crime, it’s important to hire a defence lawyer with a deep understanding of the regulatory, financial, and legal frameworks surrounding the crime. Looking for a Winnipeg criminal lawyer? Call Matt Gould.