White-Collar Crimes

According to the FBI, white-collar crime costs the United States $300 billion, annually. In particular, the Government, at both the State and Federal levels, seeks to charge individuals who not only cause harm financially but also specifically cause harm to everyday Americans.

Those who commit white-collar crime are typically in positions where they have access to large sums of money. Often, these individuals work for private companies, corporations, the Government, or have their own business with access to banking institutions.

What are some examples of white-collar crime?

There are many white-collar crimes, but some common examples include:

Corporate Fraud: The FBI heavily investigates corporate fraud and it involves crimes committed by corporations, or by individuals on behalf of a corporation. This is typically viewed as a group effort, rather than one individual. Some examples of corporate fraud include:

  • Insider trading
  • Falsification of financial information
  • Tax evasion

Embezzlement: This crime involves the misappropriation of corporate funds for personal benefit or gain. Embezzlement could be accomplished by skimming company profit and placing it in their own bank account, or by using company money to spend on personal assets.

Extortion: Extortion occurs when someone attempts to obtain money or property by threatening to commit violence, accuse the victim of a crime, or reveal private or damaging information about the victim. An example of this is threatening violence or leaking of private information in exchange for a large sum of money.

Money Laundering: Money laundering is a common crime utilized to charge individuals in both white-collar cases and drug cases. Money laundering is usually the concealment of money that has come from illegitimate enterprises. Laundering can occur with one simple transaction and does not require an overwhelming amount of proof that the charged individual is in fact concealing the source of funding.

Wire-Fraud: Wire fraud often times occurs in conjunction with another crime. Often, the act of triggering a transfer of money, or a request of money transfer through an email or letter, can bring a count (or several counts) for wire-fraud.

What is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is a piece of federal legislation that prohibits American firms from bribing foreign officials to further business practices in other countries. This law also prevents third-party payments, including joint-venture partnerships, in which payment is made with the knowledge that some or all of that payment will be passed on to a foreign government official as a bribe from a third party.

Both the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are responsible for enforcing the FCPA. This Act is one of the Government’s strongest foreign defenses against bribery and corruption.

How does the FBI conduct investigations?

Normally, the FBI will get a tip from a “whistleblower,” which will prompt the FBI to obtain Grand Jury subpoena documents or emails, get search warrants, and potentially get an approval for an electronic intercept or a wiretap. All these steps help build a case for the government. If sufficient evidence is collected, the investigation will eventually culminate with either an arrest of someone or a notification by letter to a person that they are the target of an investigation.

What is a “whistleblower?”

Because corporations strategically conceal the inner workings of management and other aspects of function, it is difficult to identify a crime, taking place in plain view. A whistleblower is usually somebody within the corporation who will tip authorities, reporting internal wrongdoing. This person will prompt an FBI investigation into the corporation. An experienced attorney should represent whistleblowers to avoid potential prosecution and assist with whistleblower defense.

What is the “Responsible Corporate Officer” doctrine?

The “Responsible Corporate Officer” doctrine is an established presumption that high-ranking individuals, such as a CEO, COO or CFO, within corporations have knowledge of its actions and the ability to prevent them. This places a heavy accountability on corporate officers to enforce legality in the workplace.

Under this doctrine, individual corporate officers can be found guilty of violating a variety of federal laws, without exhibiting any unlawful intent, negligence or knowledge of the violation or direct participation. Rather, the government only needs to prove that the executive did these three things:

  • Held a position of responsibility and authority in the corporation
  • Had the ability to prevent the violation
  • Failed to prevent the violation

What constitutes a white-collar crime conviction?

In order to be found guilty of a white-collar crime, prosecutors must prove that you intended or attempted to:

  • Commit a crime
  • Conceal a crime
  • Commit an act “in furtherance of” a crime

One of the most important aspects of this defense is that prosecutors must identify criminal intent, which can be difficult. The most common intents are:

  • Acting Purposely: The defendant had an underlying conscious object to act
  • Acting Knowingly: The defendant was certain that the illegal conduct will cause a particular result
  • Acting Recklessly: The defendant consciously ignored a substantial and unjustified risk
  • Acting Negligently: The defendant was not aware of the risk when he/she should have

 

What are the penalties for white-collar crime?

White-collar crime is an umbrella term for the multiple different crimes committed by people and corporations. These crimes are usually widespread, encompassing many people as part of the crime. A white-collar crime can span from Class A Misdemeanors (rare) to First Degree Felonies. The fines can reach into the many millions of dollars and prison sentences have a wide range, all primarily depending on monetary loses.

Contacted by the FBI?

If you have been contacted by the FBI or any government investigative agency, consult with an experienced lawyer right away. Often times, avoiding prosecution or determining what charges are brought against you, happens at the very beginning. For a free consultation on the matter, call Gary Tabakman at 713-331-9457.