• What are white collar crimes exactly?

    Author : October 15, 2017

    Famous White Collar Crimes

    White collar crimes are often linked to financial scams or corporate fraud – often committed by savvy professionals who have to wear a ‘white-collar’ and tie to work every day. Leading criminologist Edwin Sutherland defined it as ‘a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.’ This rather glamorous definition does not make their crimes any less serious than others. In fact, many corporate criminals face lengthy prison sentences upon conviction. Some of the following are the most famous and interesting cases of white collar crime in recent history.

    John Edwards

    Yes, the former Presidential candidate was indicted on six counts of campaign fraud in 2011. Edwards was accused of having friends who provided money that covered up the child he fathered out of wedlock – while his wife was dying of breast cancer. Oh, and he neglected to declare this money as campaign contributions because he thought it would head off any negativity associated with the affair. This kind of white collar crime carries stiff penalties: Mr. Edwards faced up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines. He was ultimately found not guilty of illegal use of campaign funding, and a mistrial was declared against him on all the other cases.


    White collar crimes can be difficult to try because they are often so widely reported on in the news. The Enron collapse comes to mind. Accused of illegal accounting practices with Arthur Anderson, a major accounting firm at the time, the president of Enron Jeffrey Skilling and his staff hid billions of dollars in debt through these practices. Stocks plummeted, affecting the market at large, and the SEC got involved. Eventually, Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to 24 years and 4 months in prison for his fraud.

    Bernie Madoff

    This is perhaps one of the most memorable white collar cases in recent history, when Bernie Madoff was arrested in 2008 for his ‘Ponzi’ scheme. He built a multi-billion dollar investment firm based on false trading reports, and in 2009 he pled guilty to securities fraud, money laundering, and even theft from an employee benefit plan. He received 150 years in prison and $170 billion in restitution. Three people involved with the business, including Mr. Madoff’s son, committed suicide in the wake of the scandal.

    Pharmaceutical Crimes

    While most people associate the financial sector with white collar crimes, there are several other industries that are in need of good defense attorneys, including the pharmaceutical field. Pharmaceutical executives face some of the harshest penalties, and companies face the heaviest fines when convicted. Several massive cases have dealt with illegal marketing of certain drugs, including Merck, who settled for $950 million for fraudulent marketing allegations and safety claims connected to the drug Vioxx, which was pulled from the market after it was shown to double the risk of heart attack.

    Martin Shkreli is probably the most notorious defendant in this realm, although his crimes aren’t directly tied to any sort of pharmaceutical fraud. He was recently convicted on three of eight charges that accused him of scamming investors, and securities fraud. With that, he could face up to 20 years in prison – although the evidence shows that very little damage was done to investors and the company, and many believe that the sentence could be far less than that as a result. Unfortunately, his out of court antics, which have already resulted in his revoked bail, could make his case more difficult to defend than before.

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