White-collar crime?

中国日报网 2015-11-27 11:48



White-collar crime?

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, especially “white-collar crime”: Public sector cuts have led to fewer prosecutions for white collar crime in the UK.

My comments:

First of all, public sector refers to businesses under the control of the government. Public means that they are owned by the public, i.e. everyone instead of any private person or persons.

For example, the judiciary, health care and education are mostly in the domain of the public sector in the UK as well as other countries.

Public sector businesses are usually non-profit, or not just for profit. They’re paid by the government via tax payers and are aimed at safeguarding social order and public wellbeing.

In contrast, a pure private business, such as the restaurant in the street corner, is concerned only with making money.

In our example, governments at various levels in the UK have been cutting expenditure for the public sector to such a degree that they not have enough money to prosecute white-collar crime.

In other words, even though many white-collar criminals have been identified, prosecutors don’t have the money to actually catch them and bring them to book, because going through the legal process is long and costly.

Oh, white-collar crime. Literally, white collar crimes are committed by people wearing white collars – instead of blue collars.

You know the difference between a white-collar worker and a blue-collar worker, don’t you?

Yes, the white collar worker is traditionally known as someone who works inside an office, who wears a white shirt that is sharp and clean.

On the other hand, the blue-collar worker is an employee that works outside, who wears rough clothes and does a lot of manual work, that is, physical labor.

Hence white-collar crime, an American coinage standing for crimes committed by office holders instead of the usual violent types such as the street burglar or the bank robber.

What crimes are white-collar crimes exactly?

Bribe taking, for instance. If you award a housing project to a businessman only on the merit of him giving you a million dollars in reward, it’s a white-collar crime.

Or embezzlement. If you are in charge of funding the building a new hospital but decides to pocket some of that money for yourself, then it’s another example of white-collar crime.

Or, let’s see, most of corrupt officials the Chinese government at various levels has nabbed in the recent anti-corruption drive are mostly white-collar criminals.

All right. Here are real media examples:

1. It is a common public perception: Korea is soft on white-collar crime, particularly when it involves high-level politicians, government officials or chaebol.

Speaking at the breach of trust case against Hanwha Group chairman Kim Seung-youn, an unnamed prosecutor implored the nation’s justice establishment to take a greater stand against corporate crime.

“If we continue to fail to punish (tycoons) for one reason or another, our society has no future,” the prosecutor said at the hearing at the start of February, demanding a nine-year prison term and 150 billion won (S$165 million) in fines for Kim.

The recent history of criminal sanctions against chaebol heads could be said to lend credence to this view. A recent analysis by chaebol.com noted that not one of the seven heads among the top 10 chaebol sentenced to prison since 1990 has served jail time.

The business leaders, from Samsung Group, Hyundai Group, Doosan Group, Hanwa Group, SK Group and Hanjin Group, collectively received 22 years and six months in prison for crimes ranging from tax evasion to embezzlement. All, however, were given suspended sentences initially, later followed by a presidential pardon.

- Is Korea soft on white-collar crime? AsiaOne.com, March 7, 2012.

2. The U.S. government is losing the war against white collar crime.

That’s the message from Sam E. Antar, one of the masterminds of the massive Crazy Eddie fraud of the 1980s.

“We are in the golden era of white-collar crime. My biggest regret is I should’ve been a criminal today rather than 20 years ago,” Antar told CNNMoney on the sidelines of a New Jersey securities fraud summit. Antar drew a big round of applause when he pointed out that no one from Wall Street went to prison because of crimes that led to the financial crisis.

“We are devoting far less resources to combating crooks like myself today than back in my day,” he said.

- The U.S. government is losing the war against white collar crime, CNN.com, November 17, 2014.

3. White collar crime is a broad term that covers many different areas, and its possible many people commit these sorts of crimes without knowing how serious they are. When most of us think hear “white collar crime,” the phrase calls to mind CEOs and investment bankers. But in reality, these types of crimes can be committed by anyone – from politicians to small business owners.

Generally speaking, white collar crimes are non-violent crimes committed solely for financial gain. Usually the perpetrator is taking advantage of their occupation’s elevated status – something that allowed them privileged access to information or resources.

One of the most common places that incidents of these crimes occur is on the internet. In fact, most internet crimes are white collar by definition, since they do not involve violence and tend to be financially motivated. Additionally, the fact that we turn to computers and the internet for everything these days has meant that crimes that were previously committed away from a computer (such as insider trading and fraud) now happen largely on the internet – at least in part. Any crime committed on the internet is referred to as a cyber crime.

White collar, internet-related crime may seem more innocent than something like assault, since these type of crimes are non-violent and do not occur on the street. Law enforcement treats Internet crime the same way they treat any other crime, however – with steep fines and possible incarceration. Many white collar crimes occur on the internet every day. Here are some examples you may not be aware are illegal under state and federal laws:

Computer Intrusion (Hacking). Hacking is a broad term applied to a number of different internet crimes, but it this instance, the act of hacking means simply accessing a computer, network, or computer system or parts thereof without proper authorization. Usually, hackers attempt to access private information (like financial documents, account information, passwords, or identity-related information) for the purpose of theft, but this is not always the case.

Because of the broad definition of hacking, it is easy to accuse those who have made a simple mistake of this cyber crime. For example, IT professionals who are unaware they are accessing privileged information, or an individual accessing their spouse’s email account could both technically be accused of hacking. If there is a transfer of data in between states – and there almost always is on the internet—hacking becomes a federal crime with more severe punishments. Furthermore, federal penalties are often increased by the number of individuals affected by the crime. On the internet, this number can be enormous.

Computer/Internet Fraud. Another broad term, internet fraud occurs when an individual intercepts a transmission or hacks into a computer in order to gain access to personal information. Common targets are credit card information, information regarding identity (such as Social Security numbers), and bank account information.

Like hacking, it is possible to be accused of this type of fraud without being aware you are committing a crime. Small businesses owners may be accused of fraudulent mass marketing or product misrepresentation. Online auction fraud is also a crime an individual may commit unknowingly, or be unaware of the severe consequences.

Wire Fraud. Fraud earns a special classification if it takes place via email, text messaging, fax, USPS, or telephone. This charge involves interstate communication, and is considered an attempt to illegally take property from an institution or individual.

Copyright Piracy. Probably the most common crime committed by laypeople on the internet, piracy is a federal crime that involves distribution or sharing copyrighted material over peer-to-peer internet networks. Examples of these networks include file sharing and torrent sites. Anti-piracy laws focus on “intellectual property,” which can include everything from trade secrets and proprietary products and parts to movies and music and software.

While piracy is a widespread issue with millions of offenders worldwide, law enforcement faces pressure from media companies to crack down on piracy offenders. Those who distribute intellectual property (i.e. the uploader) are more likely to be targeted than those who simply download illegally. Many individuals have been targeted in recent years by law enforcement officials seeking to “make an example” of them.

- 4 Internet Activities That May Constitute White Collar Crime, CahillCriminalDefense.com, August 11, 2015.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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