Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Is This A White Collar Crime?

The Wall Street Jrl reports here that "[a] former mailroom employee at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in connection with the theft of more than $100 million in corporate checks from a "lockbox" facility in Brooklyn."   So the question here is whether this is a white collar crime -

What makes something a white collar crime, and what designates a person a white collar criminal?

The term, coined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland, started as a word that had an element of class infused into it. Corporate misconduct was white collar. Basically, the collar you wore made a difference in whether you would be considered a white collar offender. 

Today, we have moved in the criminal justice system to looking more closely at the act.  Thus, the crime being conspiracy to commit bank fraud in this scenario would make this a white collar crime.  It is an economic crime, and perhaps it has an element of there being a fiduciary duty that was breached.  But could one also say this is just theft, like a street crime? 

The fuzzy nature of white collar crime presents issues to those of us who teach the course.  What should be covered and what should be omitted?  Is this like Potter Stewart's Jaobellis test - you'll know it when you see it?  Or does that only work with pornography?




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