The Treatment of White-Collar Cases: The DOJ Justice Manual
Hany experts have attempted to define "white collar crime." In general all the definitions that have been proposed since the term was first used in 1939, by sociologist Edwin H. Sutherland, can be divided into three different types: (1) thoDe using the characteristics of the offender as the definitional basis (e.g., "a white collar criminal is someone of high social standing who commits Q crime"); (2) t.hose definitions based on the characteristics of the crime committed (e.g., "a white collar crime is an illegal act committed in the course of one's business or professional activity"); and (3) those definitions using the means by which the crime was committed as the descriptive base (e.g., "an illegal act committed through intentional deceit, misrepresentation, or breach of trust").
At the same time, the nature of the business world and the corporate decision making process can make it difficult to assign culpability for a company’s crimes to any single individual, or even a collective group of individuals. Yet in nearly half of these cases, no individuals related to the organization were prosecuted (Rod Rosenstein, 2017). The primary goals of all prosecutions of economic crimes are accountability and deterrence. “White collar crime undermines the rule of law, defrauds victims, and disrupts the marketplace.” The Department has long recognized that deterrence of corporate crime is most effective when enforcement is consistent and when individuals are brought to account for their specific acts of wrongdoing. As former Attorney General Holder observed, “[f]ew things discourage criminal activity at a firm—or incentivize changes in corporate behavior—like the prospect of individual decision-makers being held accountable.”Deterrence is most effective under two conditions: (1) when there is individual accountability; and (2) when there is uniform enforcement of the rule of law (Eric Holder, Att’y Gen, 2014).
Consequently, it is impossible to track the extent of known white-collar violations in the United States over time, to describe the characteristics of cases and defendants, or to capture the full array of sanctions levied in a particular case or against perpetrators.
Organizations Receiving Fines or Restitution by Primary Offense Category: Fiscal Year 2016, U.S. SENTENCING COMM’N (2016).
Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Att’y Gen., U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Keynote Address at New York University School of Law on Corporate Enforcement Policy
(Oct. 6, 2017).
Eric Holder, Att’y Gen., U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Remarks on Financial Fraud Prosecutions at New York University School of Law (Sept. 17, 2014).